Ink

Stingray has a post at the always- excellent Atomic Nerds, on tattoos and their changing (?) cultural significance:

“…When LabRat and I went to purchase our current truck, we did what most antisocial nerds do and researched the bejesus out of every option available and every configuration, and based on MSRPs made a short list of what was within our range. My parents had recently purchased a vehicle from one particular dealership, and reported an excellent experience with one of their salesmen, so we packed up the checkbook and our pre-printed “we want it this way” sheet and set out. It was mid to late spring and pleasantly warm, so without jackets and in short sleeves we strode in, ready to buy a truck. Finding the salesman in question, pleasantries were exchanged, including the obligatory “we heard you were the one to talk to” bit. During this process, he took a look at our arms, adorned from shoulder to elbow on each of us with solid ink, promptly forgot our names (literally – he started calling me the equivalent of Stringbay) and handed us off to a junior sales associate who was shortly after very surprised when we replied to her inquiries about financing with “Can you take a check?” Sadly, when the dust settled he still wound up with half the commission. We did manage a small moral victory though a month or two later when we met the boss from the same dealership at our cigar club who was very interested in that story when he inquired how we liked the truck so far.”
RTWT and comments.

Neither Libby nor I have any tattoos, though we both have thought about it. But more than a few of our inner ring, the “dogfamily” do. Here are naturalist, herper, first- rate falconer, and houndman Nate, and his girl Nan, who owns a cutting- edge clothing store.

Nate and Libby
Nan and Kyran

(Yes, Kyran, prize father of two litters of tazis and one of lurchers, still thinks he is a puppy, hence his nickname of just that.)

Bodie, another falconer and dog man (and psychologist, and martial artist) who often comments here, has Edgar Allen Poe and Nietszche on his arms– no pix unfortunately!

Unspeakable Allies

ANOTHER “You Can’t Make It Up” moment: Ingrid “Holocaust on your plate” and “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” Newkirk has bonded with “Hang ’em if they won’t fight” dogfighter Michael Vick.

“Vick, demonized by PETA for more than a year, could become the bridge in this divide. Newkirk struck up a relationship with Vick beginning last fall when he visited PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Va. Vick impressed her.

” “We told him that he had to put away his mobile phone for the day; he couldn’t have his bodyguard with him for the day,” she said. “He came here and he was very respectful. He sat the whole day and we showed him videos about who animals are and how sensitive and emotional they are and how, like a child, you can ruin them by abusing them.” “

Jesus.Wept. I’m sure he will consider that in the future, as OJ continues to look for the real killers.

HT Tom McIntyre (I have fiction in that anthology BTW), whose excellent and erudite new book on optics I must review soon.

Sunday Links

We have all heard the legends of dolphins helping drowning humans. Now one appears to have helped guide stranded whales to safety.

John Wilkins, who posts at the interesting evo- blog Evolving thoughts, went to see Richard Dawkins lecture and had some critical thoughts. I can’t resist quoting:

“In particular I was annoyed that those of us who do not condemn someone for holding religious beliefs were caricatured as “feeling good that someone has religion somewhere”. Bullshit. That is not why we dislike the Us’n’Themism of TGD [The God Delusion– SB]. We dislike it because no matter what other beliefs an intelligent person may hold, so long as they accept the importance of science and the need for a secular society, we simply do not care if they also like the taste of ear wax, having sex with trees, or believing in a deity or two. Way to go, Richard. Good bit of framing and parodying the opposition. Real rational.”

It is a shame that Dawkins wastes so much energy, his and others’, on this issue. He used to be the best evolution writer around, hands down. HT John Farrell.

Mike at Sometimes Far Afield has has more thoughts on the Second Amendment, with links. One leads to this very expicit statement by Thomas Jefferson:

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

Here is what is probably the best overall take on the Peggy Seltzer literary fraud story (she is the rich white kid, graduate of an Episcopal day school, who wrote a false memoir claiming she was raised as a gang- banger in the ‘hood, in ghettoese English, and got a big advance before she was exposed.) Good quote:

” “The audience for this kind of tale is not in the ghetto but in middle-class neighborhoods far removed from it,” Martinez observes, while describing Seltzer’s fantasy as “an unintentional parody of liberal sympathy.” Unintentional? I’m pretty sure Seltzer knew exactly which buttons she was pushing, and crafted her phony narrative accordingly.”

Follow the links. She may also be linked to “Eco- Saboteurs”. You can’t make it up.

From Patrick: Marmot World. Attention Mongolian tourists!

Chas sends us to a link that tells us the Koran thinks of dogs. Luckily, the further east and north you go (the farther from Islam’s Arab cultural roots), the less this attitude exists in actual practice, at least so far. But, ominously, Iran has just decided to mount a war on dog ownership. Some of the best tazis around are in Iran’s Kurdish areas.

World’s smallest working gun– info here; pic here. It costs over $6000, and is banned in the US! HT Walter Hingley.

Annie D sent this link to a video of a singing lyrebird, introduced by David Attenborough. The lyrebird is an incredible mimic– listen to his impressions of a motor drive, a car alarm and a chainsaw, among other things. The last in particular is hard to believe.

Dan Gauss of the Hare Brained Express Blog has compiled a virtual tour of Magdalena, from pigeons to hounds and the ranch. Next best thing to being here!

Sighthound Trials / Blogger Meet-up

I took the family (Maggie and B above with puppy friends) to Bush, Louisiana, yesterday for an afternoon of lure coursing, and (as it happened) sunburn—Summer is very nearly here. Our whippet’s breeders Debbie and Maurice Bahm of DebMar kennels hosted the event on their own property, recently cleared with help from Hurricane Katrina. Although the Bahms lament the loss of their once-shady, canopied acres, the new open space offers a rare chance to follow their sport without driving across the country.
For others, the eclectic group of lure coursing fanatics who troop from meet to meet, it was just another two-day drive for a few seconds’ dash around a grassy track. If that sounds crazy, you probably aren’t a lure courser. Like hawkers, these dog folks are a group best understood from the inside.

Following the camp you can expect to find at least two regulars: that lady selling slip leads and other sighthound paraphernalia, and Shot on Site Photography. Dan Gauss and Margaret Fairman provide the running dog world with its own one-stop photo shop, piloting their RV and pack of five hounds around the country to various lure and open-field coursing meets. Theirs is not a lifestyle for everyone, but it has its charms. Dan and Margaret’s report of whereabouts prior to yesterday’s meet was telling. Dan explained, “We went broke in New Mexico so just hung out there and hunted for a couple months.” Now that’s living!

Check out Shot On Site’s visit with the Bodios here. And here. And some highlights from their hunting season here.
I’ll post a few pics (NOT Dan’s work, mind you–mine, from a distance, with a point and shoot digital) below from the Bush meet:


Borzoi at the starting line.

A short course: False start but still fun for the dogs!
What the heck’s wrong with this thing?
Soon the kinks are worked out and the trials begin. Greyhounds in pursuit.

The judges’ tent in center of field; note Dan’s little scooter-thing.

Dan and Margaret and companions (4 of the 5)


Some fine long-dogs. Safe travels, y’all!

Those Aggressive Swedes

The New York Times reports that an exhibit entitled “War Booty” at the Royal Armory in Stockholm (including these two beautiful Polish helmets) has roiled nationalist passions in Scandinavia. The NTY expresses astonishment at this development in “peaceable” Sweden. One should reflect that the histories of Swedes who went viking and terrorized Europe in the First Millenium or of the armies of Gustavus Adolphus who stormed through Germany in the 17th Century show the concept of “peaceable Sweden” is a recent one.

But according to the article, on some levels the aggression hasn’t stopped:

“On Valentine’s Day, a Danish newspaper went so far as to run a front-page headline accusing Ikea, the furniture giant founded by a Swede, which Danes have long loved to hate, of ‘bullying Denmark’ by giving comfy sofas and shiny tables Swedish and Norwegian place names while assigning Danish names to doormats and rugs.
‘I don’t think this can be a coincidence,’ a Danish professor is quoted as saying…. He called it ‘cultural imperialism.’”

Though they’ve taken their swords and longships away, perhaps deep down in the souls of some Swedes there’s still a barbarian ready to go viking – if only at Ikea.

Ladies, Be Seated

I just wanted to make sure no one missed this news item about a woman in Wichita who spent two years sitting on the toilet in her boyfriend’s house. As someone once said, you can’t make this stuff up.

Running for Rabbits

I told Steve this might be the quintessential Querencia story. I mean it covers special places, foodways, hunting, paleo-history, culture, more and certainly, worse.

It is a story so politically incorrect that it simply has no political context in which to fit. It is a story out of time. From my point of vantage, locked in an eagerly overcrowding and self-conscious corner of America, it is simply fantastic.

Here’s the nutshell: Young men, most of them black, living in a couple small, poor towns in the Florida Everglades, run down rabbits on foot for fun and fitness and a few pounds of fried meat. How did I not know about this? It happens at harvest time, when farmers burn and mow the sugarcane fields, and the marsh rabbits scurry for dwindling cover.

The visual effect is spectacular: cane smoke billows over large mechanical harvesters, while nimble, muscular kids and quick rabbits play a deadly game of tag in the dirt below. In a few minutes of film, perhaps the whole of human evolution is put on display. Here is the human animal as harvester but also as effective predator, a thinking and planning machine, with the physical chops to do the work of any hawk or owl or fox or dog. Watching it makes me proud to know we’ve still got it, as a specie; we can still do what we were doubtless doing hundreds of thousands of years before the present day. It’s a hopeful sight, given that we may someday have to do it again…

So these kids are throwbacks? Some kind of modern primitives? Hardly.

This is a region of Florida known for producing some of the fastest college football players in the nation. A few of these young men are destined for fame and fortune and some of them are already getting a taste of it. Legend has it that their long-established local tradition of running down rabbits at harvest time gives these kids the skills and athleticism necessary for success in the nation’s most competitive collegiate football programs. As one local high school coach has it, their rabbit hunting is a kind of recruiting tool: You want to play wide receiver? Go catch some rabbits and we’ll talk.

I kid you not.

ESPN produced the footage I saw, so football was the focal point. But there’s a lot more of interest here than football. For one, these are modern-day American kids who choose to spend their free time outdoors, hunting rabbits; kids with working field craft, unafraid of getting dirty or working up a sweat; American kids who can still kill, cook and like to eat wild game.

Not one of these young men needs The Dangerous Book for Boys. And what’s that about the last child in the woods? There are still a few left in the cane fields!

This story defies all our easy stereotypes. Could you believe a self-sustaining rabbit hunting culture on the outskirts of Miami? A fair-chase, no-weapon contest; a real hunt with strategy and effort, honest pride and a good meal at the end. And no preaching about it. No high-minded, over-educated commentary (unless mine counts!) No rules except those set by the speed of the rabbit, the depth of the soil, and the endurance, good hands and healthy appetites of some rural kids. It just is what it is.

Those of us guilty of making a cult of the past and fearing for the future should remember that the future doesn’t come to every place at once. In some places, the good old days are now.

I don’t know how long this particular hunting tradition can survive. The publicity it receives from ESPN (and now me and the rest of the modern world) may well kill it. If it does I’ll be ashamed, but I couldn’t help but share this with you.

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?videoId=3284688&categoryId=2378529

(HT Shelly Mullenix)

Stuff Falconers Like

Have you seen the recent spate of funny (and distinctly un-PC) blogs featuring “Stuff ____ People Like,” where various races and ethnic groups fill in the blanks? 2Blowhards provides a short list here.

This got me thinking about a new meme: Stuff Falconers Like. You could tailor it to any pastime I suppose, although I bet you the most intensive hobbies will provide the best material.

Here are a couple things most falconers like. Can you think of others?

1) Days Off: Everyone likes a day off, but falconers can make one into a miniature safari. Tag it to the start or end of a weekend, and you’ve got a mini-vacation, worthy of a month’s planning and blowing the remainder of the family budget. One day off equals at least two hunts, possibly miles apart and the chance to visit and hunt with friends. A long weekend stretches the possibilities into field-meet territory and pulls in potential hunting spots within a 150-mile radius of home. Which leads to…

2) Road Trips: Not every falconer likes to drive, but almost every one I know loves to leave town. Driving is generally the most practical means, given the gear and animals we bring with us. A “road trip” is usually more than a few hours’ drive and for most means travelling out of state and into an entirely different biome. For me that means driving 12 hours from the coastal low country of Louisiana to the high plains of the Texas panhandle. Sharing that drive and cost and fun with a couple close friends (and their animals) is an essential part of the road-trip experience. What do we talk about for 12 hours…?

3) Talking Trash about Other Falconers: This is a favorite ritual between falconer friends. It cements the lifelong bonds between falconers that outlast marriages and dogs and birds and careers. No falconer is safe from this, and even friends with whom you talk trash about another falconer can be fodder for same when circumstances permit. Bad-mouthing the poor husbandry and skills of other falconers and the performance of their birds serves a dual purpose as an affirmation of our own superior practices and as instruction to any young falconers present. Of course, bad-mouthing young falconers is also a cherished pastime and leads the next thing.

4) The Glorious Past: Every falconer lives mostly in his or her head where a larger, wilder, freer land still exists. This is the land of the Past, and it’s one of our favorite places. The state of falconry in The Past, which was usually before we had spouses and children and careers and mortgages, was truly exceptional. There was more game and more space and more time to explore it. The quality of the average young falconer (namely, ourselves) was much better than the present crop, which is one reason the present crop needs so much bad-mouthing. Driving around our hometowns and seeing all the places where we used to hunt in The Glorious Past brings to mind another thing falconers like.

5) Complaining About Sprawl: Falconers have a love/hate relationship with sprawl. We hate losing hawking places and green spaces but love exploring new ones cleared and made ready by the endless development. It’s an ecological truth that small game thrives in the temporary edge environments that are created (and of course, destroyed) by the process of unplanned, suburban growth. The fact that we have to drive farther from home each season to reach the vanguard territory grates and gives rise to the repetitive complaints our friends and families hear on every trip around town: “I used to hunt there. And over there. Damn, that was a nice spot!” We lose a little bit of our souls when each one goes under the asphalt. But alas, most of us like living in houses.

6) Alcohol: Do I know any falconers who don’t drink? I don’t think so. We are not typically alcoholics and even more rarely are we addicted to recreational drugs. At some point we need to be able to get up again the next morning and fly the birds, which we need to have fed and cared for the day before. So wild party lifestyles are incompatible with good falconry (no anecdotes to the contrary, please. I’ll just bad-mouth you.) The fact remains that falconers like to drink, and generally drink well in terms of quality beers and spirits. Maybe it helps to relive the good flights or maybe it helps us handle the sprawl.

7) Other People’s Hawks: We all like to fly nice hawks and generally tend to like the hawk we’re flying at present. But hawks we’ve had in the past and hawks flown now by other people are often the better birds. This is especially true of hawks flown by other people in other countries, hawks we’ve only seen in photos. Those exotic hawks all catch tons of game and give their falconers no trouble. I wish someone would import some of those.

If you can think up more Stuff, funny or otherwise, please post a comment.

*Photo: Bruce Haak’s great home-bred peregrine, Jinx, on recent pheasant kill. Jinx is one of those covetted hawks flown by another person.

Mystery Plant

On his visit last week,Dan showed us these photos of a mysterious plant he photographed in San Diego. I think it is South African but don’t really have the botanical chops to ID it. Readers?