Cat and Matt in the Big Easy

Another check-mark on my Blogger Meet-up Bucket List!  Cheers from New Orleans!

An unexpected and very welcome note from fellow blogger Cat Urbigkit, who was on her way to Louisiana:

“I’m about to head to New Orleans for a long weekend (attending the American Library Association convention) – I can’t believe how hot it is there. . . .I can handle cold temps (add more layers), but as one brilliant teenager said about heat, ‘there’s only so naked you can get.'”

Well put! And true… We’ve been off the historical charts here, with real temps recently over 100 degrees and for days at a time.  Add that to our 85% humidity, and the heat indexes have been astounding.

At least Baton Rouge has a breeze.  Cramped old New Orleans in this kind of heat?  Forgetaboutit.

But I couldn’t miss a chance to meet Cat in person. I’ve greatly enjoyed her posts and photos here at Querencia, and she has been wonderfully generous in sending her books for my kids.  Reading of her visit to Mongolia and her adventures with falconers on her own home range, she’s almost a hawking buddy at this point.

Parking in the French Quarter, Step One: Find an open space, but be suspicious of open spaces.

Step Two:  Take photo of car beneath ambiguous “no parking” sign, since no one else seems to have risked the tow, and I might need to have evidence of the car tag and date.

Step Three: Email photo to myself in case over-zealous parking officer confiscates my phone, or it gets stolen.

Step Four: Then and only then, feed meter.

Cat and I met near the Cafe Du Monde, the Quarter’s famous old dive where at least 80 tourists stood in line for bengniets and cafe au lait—in the heat.  We passed.

We walked instead through the covered French Market and found a shady bench beneath the live oaks in a park off Frenchmen Street.  A Cooper’s hawk and a family of angry crows hopped around the branches above us as we talked of bad sheep and good lambs.

At lunchtime we left to eat at one of my favorite local spots, the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, home of the world’s only pie topped with shrimp and andoullie sausage etouffee.  There we talked at satisfying length about Steve (all good things), eagle falconry, our kids, writing, ranching, reading and local beers.  It was a pleasure.

Thank you, Cat, and come again!

“I smell a bird somewhere…”

My friend Daniel’s new pup Bailey:

Daniel is blessed or cursed with pointers, falcons, double guns, good books, and even Spanish pouters, lives in wine country, hunts in Montana.

“This would be a man who has ruined his life for sport…”– Tom McGuane of Russ Chatham, on his announcing he was going duck hunting AND trout fishing…

Photo Blogging: Central Asian Textiles

Soviet war -era Afghan battle rug, supposedly of a real battle, obtained from an (American) artist who spent a good part of his youth there. Notice almost NMexican architecture and lack of un- Islamic humans despite tanks and helicopters; as always, click to embiggen:

Uzbek gun slip– for, of all things, a Jungle carbine SMLE. Believe me, the only thing that fits, even to a perfectly- placed hole for the bolt handle…

Thanks to Michael Simon and Eric Wilcox.

UPDATE: found a pic of the old carbine with the Uzbek slip. Sold down the road like so many good guns, and too poor to afford “new” guns right now, but if anyone has one they no longer want (;-)…

On taking Kipling seriously

Kipling, perhaps because of his (perceived) politics, still “can’t get no respect” from middlebrow critics and the kind of hacks who enjoy making up dismissive one- liners. He has fewer problems with actual readers– he is never out of print– or serious critics; in addition to the ones mentioned below, good recent essays on him have appeared from Christopher Hitchens, who hardly shares his politics real or imagined, and from John Derbyshire.

Still, it was nice to see a celebratory Kipling essay, “The Storyteller”, in the formidable Robert Gottlieb’s new Lives and Letters. They don’t come more haut- lit than Gottlieb– he was head editor of Knopf, Simon & Schuster, AND the NYRKR, not to mention a director of the New York ballet, is old enough to have known all the giants, and is uniquely qualified to review things in three or four fields in the arts.

On Kipling, Gottlieb quotes a letter from the always ambivalent, yet reluctantly admiring, Henry James ” ‘… His talent I think quite diabolically great.’ (James Joyce, too, as Norman Page points out in his invaluable A Kipling Companion, cited Kipling — along with D’Annunzio and Tolstoy — as one of the nineteenth century’s ‘greatest natural talents.’) Alas, James didn’t live to read those stories in which Kipling’s talent was to be applied to material that James would certainly have found more congenial than talking locomotives — in fact, on occasion, to semi- Jamesian donnees, as in ‘Dayspring Mishandled’.”

He continues: “James’s ambivalence about Kipling is particularly worth noting because it presages the ambivalence of so much of the criticism and comment to come. No writer of the period — except perhaps James himself — has been so worried over, so condemned and reclaimed. Certainly no writer of the period has had so many remarkable explicators, among them T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, Randell Jarrell, August Wilson, Kingsley Amis. And there is important work being done on Kipling today — by dueling biographers and by outstanding critics like J.M.S. Tompkins and Craig Raine. Eliot was primarily concerned with reconsidering the poetry, but he shares with his fellow critics the urge to rescue Kipling — or to place him, their efforts underlining the fact that, given his “diabolically great” talent, he has to be acknowledged and dealt with. However difficult a specimen he is to pin down, and however much one may dislike aspects of his mind and manner, he cannot be ignored.”

The most interesting recent biographical work I have read is (India- born) Charles Allen’s Kipling Sahib.

Whoops– Lost and Found

My old friend Steve Grooms, author of two fine books on pheasants (here and here), as well as ones on wolves and cranes, called today. We probably haven’t talked in over twenty years. After much catching up, he gave me an email for more– but it keeps bouncing!

He has a good- gun- and book combo he is interested in placing, and I have offered to help. Can any of Q’s readers put us in touch?

Update: all fixed and back in touch. Here is a youthful Grooms with his great spaniel Brandy, and his pheasant gun– more to come…

Good News!

If given my many hints and more it IS news. I have just signed a contract for, not one, but two books with Globe Pequot Press!

The first, The Eagle’s Shadow, is virtually done: a natural and cultural history of All Things Eagle, with over 100 already- acquired illos from petroglyphs and shamanistic religious objects to Kazakh stamps and advertising art; even a harrowing shot (in both senses of the word) of an eagle about to meet its doom in 50’s Texas, taken over a shotgun, out the window of a diving Piper Cub. Evolution, religion, art, anthropology; enmity, amity, falconry; persecution and conservation.

The second is a “Sporting Library” a very opinionated — that is, MY opinion– bunch of wonderful reads on hunting and fishing, broadly defined, that I am in the process of putting together now. I could quote from the proposal but a recent letter of mine to a writer who is in it may be more succinct.

“As you said it will be a challenge to come up with around 100 best sporting themed books and authors, but I am neither limiting myself to literature per se nor God help us just traditional “hook and bullet”sources. I want science and art and history. Tom McGuane and Jim Harrison and Joe Hutto and maybe even Brautigan will be in it, sure. But I also plan books on paleolithic cave paitings, poetry about fish, stuff from Russia (Arseniev, Prishvin, Turgenev of course). The translation of Emperor Frederic II’s book on falconry, and Cambridge poet Helen Macdonald’s modern one, and The Goshawk (and more TH White). Out of Africa, Elspeth Huxley, Man Eaters of Tsavo. Caroline Gordon’s novel and bird hunting stories about Aleck Maury, which McGuane loves, and Cross Creek. William Beebe’s Pheasant Jungles. Geoffrey Household’s literate thrillers with hunting themes. Bob Jones’ fierce surreal Blood Sport, and Kerasote’s gentle Blood Ties, and Blood Knot (English; one of last year’s best books period, with some fish). William Humphrey’s My Moby Dick about a trout, and Gavin Maxwell on harpooning sharks. Norman MacLean and Roderick Haig Brown. Brian Plummer’s Rat Hunting Man, and Caroline Blackwood’s fox- hunting women.”

There is a lot out there and I am already having fun. Suggestions enthusiastically encouraged, as is forwarding to friends!

PLF and John Huston

Leigh Fermor’s one venture into movie writing was with my favorite (and most literary) director, John Huston, but apparently it was not a success (although there were still some good times enjoyed by the pre- PC group.

As the only available version of the movie is in Spanish, in Euro format, and subtitled in English, I wrote to fellow writer and falconer Tony Huston to see if there were any others available. He knew of none, and confirmed that the otherwise brilliant PLF never quite “got” screenwriting; he thinks his father rewrote it, though even that didn’t save the film from the critics.

In gratitude for our efforts, Tom Sawford of the PLF Blog sent this splendid photo of Huston, Paddy, and Darryl Zanuck en route to Africa. Damn Leigh Fermor still looked the same at 90!

If any reader has a lead to any English version, we would love to see it.

Hal Herring on Colonel Cooper

As mentioned below. In his excellent Amazon review of To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, Hal Herring writes:

“…Cooper is an authentic American voice, and the rare man who has read and written as much as he has studied weaponry, ethics, and war. He is opinionated- I never agreed with him about the wars in Central America, or about his rigid interpretations of morality. But it does not matter- Cooper’s opinions are his own, and because of his powerful intellect, they are always worth reading, considering, questioning. He is a serious man, a serious writer, and a serious thinker. Reading him reminds one of Andre Malraux and other warrior scholars, who have lived big lives, witnessed history, and feel enough a part of it to offer their take on almost anything.

“Cooper is a hard–edged right winger of the old school, as far removed from these radio shock jocks like Limbaugh as you could ever get. In fact, the conservative movement in the US could use a good read of To Ride, Shoot Straight,and Speak the Truth. Maybe they would learn why the Republican party has collapsed, just by seeing what a real conservative is. At least it would make them read.

“To give an idea of Cooper’s wide audience, I heard the Texas songwriter [and Q favorite] James McMurtry (Larry McMurty, Lonesome Dove, etc.’s son) talking about Cooper on the satellite radio not long ago, saying he was one of the only gunwriters who can truly write, and has something larger to say. That’s high praise from a wordsmith and a half.”

Of course, if you use the blog’s search function using his name, you will find I could never convince the Colonel, even with photos, that eagles could kill wolves, and that Jonathan Hanson alleges that he should have perished in the Cretaceous extinction event…

Linkfest plus…

Good news announcement imminent (no, not the pending grandchild or as Mr P calls it “the Forthcoming Offspring”)– but I think I will wait until it is “on paper” so to speak. Somehow pixels are not quite as real…

Also other news: going to Wyoming in August, where Libby will cook for an old friend’s daughter’s wedding, and I will meet up with Cat, speak at her library, and drink martinis. That should feed blogging. Then, East in Sept mostly to see family but also hope to get with Sy & Dr Hypercube. More as I know more.

Meanwhile, too long since a link collection, with plenty accumulated. With no further ado:

Natural history: Walter Hingley sends note of 2500 year- old gyrfalcon nests, with 900 year- old feathers. I knew packrat nests in the southwest may date to the near Pleistocene but I believe this is the first bird nest so old.

From Matt: YouTubes of the first New World “forest falcon” I know of successfully trained in falconry, progressing from calling to bagged quarry to hunting. Ecologically and I suspect evolutionarily a fascinating bird: a genetic falcon or at least primitive falcon evolved in an Accipter’s habitat to look like one, and with a primitive South American caracara’s head!

(Matt: “I have actually heard the collared FF calling in the forest in Panama, but I never happened to see one. I did trap a barred FF in a mist net and it was the first wild trapped hawk I think I ever held. I told the biologist, “It looks just like a tiny goose hawk!” He chuckled and asked if I meant goshawk, which I knew was the word and the spelling but had never said it out loud or heard it spoken…

“…It obviously runs on foot a lot (did you see the grainy YouTube of the bird running after the falconer like some crazed armadillo?) so the flights would probably go in and out of cover like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It has gorgeous feet and a serious head with a strong, compressed beak.

“In attitude it definitely seems like an imprinted falcon, especially the imprinted aplos I’ve seen. Watching something that acts like a falcon but is built like a cooper’s hawk is a little disconcerting. I was pleased to see also how attentive it was, how well it ate and how apparently comfortable it was in the relative open country. I’m sure I could catch some things with one around here.”)

Asian animal memes; reader and dog relative Lane Bellman sends this informative forum on eagling, dogs, and other things Central Asian. They use some of my photos, but as they praise me and recommend Canat as a guide I am not complaining.

Pigeons beat Internet. I love my computer but also my Neolithic, ancient agri- city tech…

Guns n’ stuff: Al Qaeda, NY mayor Bloomberg, and the Daily News all endorse the same gun control plan, based on a total lie or, charitably, ignorant misinterpretation. That would be a terrorist organization, a liberal mayor (if singularly illiberal person), and a conservative newspaper– equal opportunity blame to go around here.

(Things are different in the west. Next post or soon I’ll quote Hal Herring’s review of a Colonel Jeff Cooper gun book. Herring is doubtless broadly on the left– wrote a piece on wolves for High Country News recently– but finds good true things to say about the old T rex).

From Chas: the Ninja Glock I too like the… serendipitously fortuitous typhoon app, and yes this IS a joke.

Cultural and other: the great sportswriter George Kimball has a website up. I contribute a small blurb to his neglected American at Large. Go there and buy the books of among other things our finest contemporary– last?– boxing writer. (And a strange common denominator– at dinner in Mag last year I mentioned him and Daniela knew his NY sports reporting, while Vermont- raised Greg, Libby’s boss, knew him from the Boston Herald!)

Could I be part Mongol or Turk?? I am certainly part Lombard. Too early for the ridiculously prolific Jingiz line, though…

Chad posts the truest readers’ poster ever made. And Nagrom, sometime blacksmith and knife maker, writes the best essay on tools. (Nagrom also has a James Elroy Flecker quote in his header, and is the only person under 40 I know of who knows he exists– well, Peculiar might. Anyone want to quote me his most famous lines?)

Last, some stuff from the WSJ re Buzkashi I don’t have a link to, irresistible– I am sure you could find the source. Me to blogfamily:

“…don’t know if it is online yet but the Wall St Journal has a
piece on achieving fame via buzkashi in Afghanistan, with lots of local
color, vendors hawking opium and hash at bouts etc.

“But the real delight is the attempt of local (??!!) PETA to stop it. The
vice president or some such of the buzkashi society is quoted as saying
(paraphrasing here– I read it at the Post office): “But we love our horses!
We think of them as WEAPONS.”

“They may be barbarians but you gotta love it.”