An Important Public Service Announcement

One of the news feeds I receive at the office is the Daily Report from The Chronicle of Higher Education; it covers a broad range of issues relating to university administration, faculty development, fundraising, legislative news relating to academia, and the occasional rave or rant about “kids these days.”

The related Chronicle Review offers space for op/ed commentary on same issues and often includes very thoughtful writing on current events.

I wanted to share with you an essay from today’s issue, entitled The End of Solitude. Regular Querencia readers will note a strong thematic resonance. You can find it here, unless your access is blocked (psssst…email me).

Yale professor William Deresiewicz writes about the loss of solitude–our vanishing comfort with the notion and the experience of being alone–and supports his thesis with a range of examples drawn from among his students and elsewhere.

“I once asked my students about the place that solitude has in their lives. One of them admitted that she finds the prospect of being alone so unsettling that she’ll sit with a friend even when she has a paper to write. Another said, why would anyone want to be alone?”

Reaching farther than mere complaint, Deresiewicz places the phenomenon in historical context and makes a case for it as definitive of our present age.
Here’s an extended passage (by no means a summary of his argument) where he takes us from his view of Modernism, where “The mob, the human mass, presses in. Hell is other people. The soul is forced back into itself,”–and thus solitude becomes a necessary form of escape–to the Postmodern area, where:

“…our great fear is not submersion by the mass but isolation from the herd.
“Urbanization gave way to suburbanization, and with it the universal threat of loneliness. What technologies of transportation exacerbated — we could live farther and farther apart — technologies of communication redressed — we could bring ourselves closer and closer together. Or at least, so we have imagined. The first of these technologies, the first simulacrum of proximity, was the telephone. “Reach out and touch someone.” But through the 70s and 80s, our isolation grew. Suburbs, sprawling ever farther, became exurbs. Families grew smaller or splintered apart, mothers left the home to work. The electronic hearth became the television in every room. Even in childhood, certainly in adolescence, we were each trapped inside our own cocoon. Soaring crime rates, and even more sharply escalating rates of moral panic, pulled children off the streets. The idea that you could go outside and run around the neighborhood with your friends, once unquestionable, has now become unthinkable. The child who grew up between the world wars as part of an extended family within a tight-knit urban community became the grandparent of a kid who sat alone in front of a big television, in a big house, on a big lot. We were lost in space.

“Under those circumstances, the Internet arrived as an incalculable blessing. We should never forget that. It has allowed isolated people to communicate with one another and marginalized people to find one another. The busy parent can stay in touch with far-flung friends. The gay teenager no longer has to feel like a freak. But as the Internet’s dimensionality has grown, it has quickly become too much of a good thing. Ten years ago we were writing e-mail messages on desktop computers and transmitting them over dial-up connections. Now we are sending text messages on our cellphones, posting pictures on our Facebook pages, and following complete strangers on Twitter. A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired in to the electronic hive — though contact, or at least two-way contact, seems increasingly beside the point. The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity. How many friends do I have on Facebook? How many people are reading my blog? How many Google hits does my name generate? Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection. Not long ago, it was easy to feel lonely. Now, it is impossible to be alone.

“As a result, we are losing both sides of the Romantic dialectic. What does friendship mean when you have 532 “friends”? How does it enhance my sense of closeness when my Facebook News Feed tells me that Sally Smith (whom I haven’t seen since high school, and wasn’t all that friendly with even then) “is making coffee and staring off into space”? My students told me they have little time for intimacy. And of course, they have no time at all for solitude.”

If you can find a few uncluttered moments for reading the entire essay, please do so. It’s the most important thing I’ve read this year.

Coincidentally, I just dissolved my Facebook page and bid farewell to my 134 Friends. No hard feelings. It’s nothing personal. IM me?

Help for Dutch Salmon

Many readers of this blog know Dutch Salmon– longdog man, writer, publisher, and a needed voice on the New Mexico Game commission. He was the man we came to New Mexico to visit thirty years ago, and the man who gave us our first saluki. I owe him more than I can ever repay.

Last week the Salmon family suffered a disaster. Let Dan Gauss take it from here:

“We’ve known Dutch, and his wife, Cherie and son, Buddy for almost 10 years. Just before New Years, Buddy was air-lifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital with a sinus infection that got out of control, first with paralysis, then seizures. He’s had at least one brain surgery, and is still hospitalized.

“This has caused financial hardship, and untold wear and tear on vehicles, as there’s no easy way to get from Silver City to Albuquerque.. just check a map.. not to mention the cost of lodging in a city hundreds of miles from home.”

At the link above Dan has made a handsome T- Shirt featuring Dutch with hare and hound, and a link to a quilt raffle, all proceeds to go to the Salmons. Dutch has given his life to the hounds, to the defense of field sports, and to New Mexico sports folks. Let’s all give some back.

Links 2

In the seventies a wild bunch of young writers and other artists went to Key West in search of bonefish, permit, and above all tarpon. Word was that a film was made of their quest but it never surfaced. Now it has.

I can’t wait to see it. Not only for the leaping tarpon (I still want to catch one!) but for the sheer amusement of seeing people, many of whom I know and who are approaching seventy, as 30- something hippies. It also features what I believe to be the only footage of Richard Brautigan ever taken. You can also go here for an interview with Guy de la Valdene on the film’s background and genesis.

Absinthe lollipops at Never Yet Melted. As David says “For All Addams Children Everywhere”!

Chas Clifton’s dog Shelby has been making a pig of himself with pig remains. This put me in mind of the legendary Dogs In Elk, one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the webs.

“When I finally woke all the way up, it was to a horrible vision. Somehow, 3 dogs with a combined weight of about 90 pounds, managed to hoist one of the ribcages (the meatier one, of course) up 3 feet to rest on top of the swamp cooler outside the window, and push out the screen. What woke me was Gus Pong, howling in frustration from inside the ribcage, very close to my head, combined with feverish little grunts from Jake, who was standing on the nightstand, bracing himself against the curtains with remarkably bloody little feet. Here are some things I have learned, this Rosh Hashanah weekend: 1. almond milk removes elk blood from curtains and pillowcases, 2. We can all exercise superhuman strength when it comes to getting elk carcasses out of our yard, 3. The sight of elk ribcages hurtling over the fence really frightens the nice deputy sheriff who lives across the street, and 4. the dogs can pop the screens out of the windows, without damaging them, from either side.”

Searching around, I found this follow up, in which we learn that one of the culprits was a New Guinea Singing dog (which makes sense); and a tribute to Dogs In Elk— in pumpkin.

Carl Zimmer is not pleased with some science writing, especially this piece in Esquire.

Says Zimmer: “I…I just don’t know where to begin with the opening to this article in the latest issue of Esquire. “Pretty lady”? “The new poor part of town”? A noxious martini of mixed metaphors topped with an olive of ridiculous hype. (Forget it–I can’t compete with this stuff.)”

You think he is exaggerating? Let’s take a few random paragraphs.

“First thing that happens when you have a heart attack, an unlucky part of your heart turns white. The blood’s stopped pumping to that spot, so it becomes pink-speckled bloodlessness, coarse and cool like grapefruit gelatin.

“This is the moment when, if they could think, these heart cells in this new poor part of town would go, “Well, shit.” Mortal things have a godly way of knowing when they’ll die.

“Next comes the back-alley bruise of organ death. The cells turn from white to black, all shitted up like a body pit in a war, two weeks after. Suddenly, soldier, this part of your heart is dead, only it’s still in your body, attached to the good section — the 90210 ventricle — and the good part is smirking, it’s saying, “Come on, rebuild yourself, man!”

(Snip)

“But now look here, a woman. She is a pretty lady of Pakistani heritage who highlights her soccer-mom layers, which you don’t expect from a lab-worn doctor-lady.”

(Snip)

“For years, stem cells were this scream of a promise. A kitten-faced controversy that was going to be worth all the protest. The idea was that since they could become any cell in the human body, you could inject stem cells into diseased hearts and they would regenerate the dying meat. They were the bloody rope, the unholy cure.”

KITTEN FACED CONTROVERSY?? WTF?? I would flunk this in a high school writing class, never mind a workshop for adults like I used to teach.

While it is hilarious, I also find it utterly depressing that I struggle to get published anywhere while this woman gets paid for writing in a magazine that once published the likes of Hemingway and Harrison. Arnold Gingrich must be spinning in his grave.

Links 1

A few “serious” ones first, and then some funny and/or insane…

I really like this recycled column from Terrierman Patrick Burns, which I missed the first time around. It is called “Hunting and Fishing Like Adults” and was prompted by a note from regular reader Matt Miller about “canned hunts”. It is a long and thoughtful post and you should read it all, but these lines might be a quick summary:

“A lot of people will find some of these questions easy to answer, but will pause at others.

“The brain dead Vegan and the knuckle-dragging slob-hunter will find all of these questions easy to answer.

“So too will the older, thoughtful, skilled hunter who hunts only wild lands and who only fishes wild waters. He knows what he chooses and why.”

Is the city bad for your brain? Apparently! Some of the data here are fascinating.

“Although Olmsted took pains to design parks with a variety of habitats and botanical settings, most urban greenspaces are much less diverse. This is due in part to the “savannah hypothesis,” which argues that people prefer wide-open landscapes that resemble the African landscape in which we evolved. Over time, this hypothesis has led to a proliferation of expansive civic lawns, punctuated by a few trees and playing fields.

“However, these savannah-like parks are actually the least beneficial for the brain. In a recent paper, Richard Fuller, an ecologist at the University of Queensland, demonstrated that the psychological benefits of green space are closely linked to the diversity of its plant life. When a city park has a larger variety of trees, subjects that spend time in the park score higher on various measures of psychological well-being, at least when compared with less biodiverse parks.”

(HT Steve Armstrong).

Two coyotes, apparently healthy, attack a woman in Colorado. As Valerius Geist has been saying for years, acclimated predators are dangerous. And if coyotes can be, how much more so for lions and wolves? Keep them shy! (By reasonable hunting).

Gail Goodman sends this excellent article by John Yates of the American Sporting Dog Alliance on how to fight local AR groups on dog (and other animal) legislation. A must- read.

Walter Hingley sent this nice essay on the French Darne shotgun, still one of my favorites– and I own a London Best. A sample:

“Now that I’m standing next to it, I realize that the shotgun is in-the-white — the stainless-steel appearance forward-looking yet faithful to the side-by-side pedigree.

“The breech is slid open, the lever that operates it raised like a Crucifix displayed in a jeweler’s case.

“Mesmerized by the design, it dawns on me that the barrels don’t swing down. You load the shotgun by sliding back the breech with a lift of the lever, then push down the lever to close it.

“The streamline action flows into a straight stock void of the heavy figuring that could detract from the elegant silhouette.

“The shotgun could easily stand on its own in the Museum of Modern Art in homage to industrial design along side a 1937 Bugatti Drop Head Coupe, an Eames-Saarinen potato-chip chair or a Caran d’Ache “1010” fountain pen.”

Next, some sillier stuff…

Cursed Abe

As I wrote yesterday’s post “Honest Abe, clever Abe,” I did it gleefully, knowing it would cause husband Jim to curse when he read it on the blog. His view of Abe is different than mine, thus the cursing.

You see, Abe belongs to our son Cass, and he loves Cass dearly. But when it comes to actually working, being a herding dog, Abe only works for me. It drives Jim crazy. If he tries to tell Abe what to do, Abe will turn his back and walk away, either go to the house, or go sit in the truck. There is no way he’ll take commands.

Abe adores working sheep with me. He tries to figure out what I want to do and then simply works to get it done. He’s had no formal training and certainly hasn’t ever heard a whistle. But he knows I use certain words and phases, such as “go around,” “other way,” and “turn them.” I also give him hand signals. This all came about not because of any effort to train him – he’s just worked with me a lot. I can read a lot of his body language as well, so it’s a mutual thing.

Late in the summer every year, we always have a few lambs that slip through the fence into the highway right-of-way, eating the lush grass that is never cut. I’ll get a call from a trooper or trucker, so Abe and I load up and go down the road to get the lambs back in. I talk to Abe as we drive, telling him what we’re going to do: “We’re going to work sheep. You’ll have to ‘get them’ and put them through the gate.” When we get to the pasture and I open the door, Abe jumps out, runs down the fenceline and gets the lambs, putting them back in the pasture just as I get the gate open. Mission accomplished. It’s as though he listened to everything I’d told him.

As I said, it drives Jim crazy.

Honest Abe, Clever Abe

While the nation is focused on our new president, and since there are so many references being made to Abe Lincoln, it’s a good day to tell you about his namesake who lives in our household. Abe is a bearded collie, our family’s livestock herding dog. He was my son’s first dog, and is about eight years old, named after old Honest Abe.

Today gave an indication of Abe’s cleverness. We live along a busy highway (by country standards), with lots of oilfield traffic. This afternoon, Abe was outside and barked to let me know that someone was here. I stepped to the window to see the UPS truck coming down the highway with the turning signal on, just starting to slow down to turn into our driveway. The UPS truck wasn’t to the driveway yet, but Abe knew he was coming here. Was it because of the turning signal? That’s my bet.

Oilfield pickup trucks often park at our turnout so occupants can talk on cell phones, and Abe never bothers to let me know about them. The UPS truck comes here often, and never gets barked at unless he’s coming here – not when he’s just driving by on the highway. The truck is quiet, so it’s not as though there is any major noise warning.

Regardless, Abe knows that I want to be alerted when UPS is arriving, and not alerted when the oilfield workers are using the turnout. He’s a very good boy, our honest, clever Abe.

Be Very Afraid

Obama’s new “regulatory czar”, Harvard law prof Cass Sunstein, is getting praise from both liberals and conservatives.

Maybe he shouldn’t.

“In a 2007 speech at Harvard University, Sunstein argued in favor of entirely “eliminating current practices such as … meat eating.” He also proposed: “We ought to ban hunting, I suggest, if there isn’t a purpose other than sport and fun. That should be against the law. It’s time now.”

“Sunstein wrote in his 2004 book “Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions” that “animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives … Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.” “

We’d best get together on this one, if we care anything about continued realtions with our animals. He is PETA- level bad.

Not sharing

With a new carcass in the neighborhood this morning, area eagles were once again drawn in, and I spent a while hanging out this afternoon, trying to capture the action. There were seven eagles, only two of which were goldens, which flew as soon as I arrived. This juvenile bald stayed around so I got plenty of photos. 

What I enjoyed the most was when the eagle was temporarily spooked off the carcass and stayed off to the side, very grumpy. This raven harassed the eagle, and the eagle really didn’t like it at all.

Sometimes I feel like that. It’s one of those “If I could catch you, you would never do that again” kinds of feelings.

Sharing

It’s been really cold here in western Wyoming the last few weeks, with temperatures dropping to -20 to -25 degrees most nights. I tend to hibernate in my pajamas when it’s that cold, putting on my Carhartts and going outside only to drive the feed truck every day, then back to the PJs. Of course all the livestock get extra feed when it’s frigid, so they seem no worse for the wear. In fact, they chase the feed truck, jumping, running and bucking, so they are obviously wintering well.

Busy working on manuscripts, even my photography has been neglected of late. But today, things changed. It started snowing during the night, so temperatures warmed up nicely. It was about 6 degrees when I got up at 5 a.m. I had a manuscript to mail, so I showered and put on presentable clothes for the drive to town.

Just outside our fenceline, I saw seven eagles (both balds and goldens) on the ground, surrounding a freshly killed pronghorn antelope buck. Apparently the buck was hit on the highway, but got inside the pasture fence before it went down. When I stopped to watch the goings-on, almost all the eagles flew. Only one brave bird refused to give up the carcass, and for that I’m thankful. It was a pleasure to watch this beautiful bird. Here’s to sharing!

Local Meet

We went out Saturday to a local falconers’ meet. Early morning was devoted to falcons over ducks in the valley, and late afternoon to Harris hawks and rabbits. But in the late morning it was time for the real fanatics– we who run longdogs with falcons on hares.

The coursing ground was a huge block of public grazing ground on the plateau east of the Rio, just north of White Sands Missile Range.

Trinity site is visible but unmarked– 3/4 of the way across the photo, on the light- colored plain below the low (San Andres) mountain range, about 40 miles away. The view is southeast.

This is a view looking slightly north of west, to our Magdalena range– 10,780 to the high peak of South Baldy. We live just off the photo to the right at the north “nose” of the range, about 50 miles away.

One non- longdog was present and was treated with disdain by Miss Mouse.

The field was jumping (sorry) with hares. My bird is not ready for prime time (to put it mildly) but I brought Ataika. Terence Wright ran his lurchers Mouse and Percy and flew his Gyr- Prairie Cog, and accounted for two hares, one unfortunately pirated by a pair of Redtails!

Then Greg and I ran Ataika and his tazi, her son Cisco, and got another. This is a fierce bird and the tazis gave her plenty of room on the kill. She gives me some hope for the future of my bird. Daniela Imre took the other photos, much better than mine, and I’ll let her speak for the rest.

“Here are some more: Steve after the chase w/Ataika (L) & her son Cisco (I believe Cisco is Berkut’s grandson [Yes– she was talking to Andrey in Kazakhstan who owned Berkut and bred Cisco’s father Kyran]). Terence Wright and Greg Rabourn posing with their falcons & hounds. Terence has Percy, and Greg has Cisco. They were smiling at the guy with the larger telephoto lens…Greg’s Gyr-saker guarding her kill, and then the individuals w/their birds: Terence with his Gyr-Prairie falcon Cog, and Greg talking to his Gyr-Saker, who had some things to say about…well..I guess everything.”