Autumn– and October Country

Ray Bradbury- who despite his virtues was NOT a typical science fiction writer as one young girl memorably sang, though arguably great. (Google “F me Ray Bradbury YouTube”)

Chad Love muses on this and after a suggestion I made last year prints one of the all time best opening lines:

Thesis: as Tom Russell is an un- hyphenated American songwriter, not just a country or folk singer, Ray Bradbury was an American writer, not a s-f or fantasy or Midwestern nostalgic one or Angeleno or (just) the guy who wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s version of Moby Dick….

Bonus trivia: T H White was his fan.

Indiana Jones is Denied Tenure

I have seen this several times over the years, as archaeologists like to chuckle over it. I ran across it again recently here and thought I’d put it up for the enjoyment of any who hadn’t seen it.

January 22, 1939

Assistant Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr.
Department of Anthropology
Chapman Hall 227B
Marshall College

Dr. Jones:

As chairman of the Committee on Promotion and Tenure, I regret to inform you that your recent application for tenure has been denied by a vote of 6 to 1. Following past policies and procedures, proceedings from the committee’s deliberations that were pertinent to our decision have been summarized below according to the assessment criteria.

Demonstrates suitable experience and expertise in chosen field:

The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from “possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency” to “practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics” to “unabashed grave-robbing.” Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.

Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.

Nationally recognized for an effectual program of scholarship or research supported by publications of high quality:

Though Dr. Jones conducts “field research” far more often than anyone else in the department, he has consistently failed to report the results of his excavations, provide any credible evidence of attending the archaeological conferences he claims to attend, or produce a single published article in any peer-reviewed journal. Someone might tell Dr. Jones that in academia “publish or perish” is the rule. Shockingly, there is little evidence to date that Dr. Jones has successfully excavated even one object since he arrived at Marshall College. Marcus Brody, curator of our natural-history museum, assured me this was not so and graciously pointed out several pieces in the collection that he claimed were procured through Dr. Jones’s efforts, but, quite frankly, we have not one shred of documentation that can demonstrate the provenance or legal ownership of these objects.

Meets professional standards of conduct in research and professional activities of the discipline:

The committee was particularly generous (and vociferous) in offering their opinions regarding this criterion. Permit me to list just a few of the more troubling accounts I was privy to during the committee’s meeting. Far more times than I would care to mention, the name “Indiana Jones” (the adopted title Dr. Jones insists on being called) has appeared in governmental reports linking him to the Nazi Party, black-market antiquities dealers, underground cults, human sacrifice, Indian child slave labor, and the Chinese mafia. There are a plethora of international criminal charges against Dr. Jones, which include but are not limited to: bringing unregistered weapons into and out of the country; property damage; desecration of national and historical landmarks; impersonating officials; arson; grand theft (automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft in just a one week span last year); excavating without a permit; countless antiquities violations; public endangerment; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter; and, allegedly, murder.

Dr. Jones’s interpersonal skills and relationships are no better. By Dr. Jones’s own admission, he has repeatedly employed an underage Asian boy as a driver and “personal assistant” during his Far East travels. I will refrain from making any insinuations as to the nature of this relationship, but my intuition insists that it is not a healthy one, nor one to be encouraged. Though the committee may have overstepped the boundaries of its evaluation, I find it pertinent to note that Dr. Jones has been romantically linked to countless women of questionable character, an attribute very unbecoming of a Marshall College professor. One of these women was identified as a notorious nightclub singer whose heart he attempted to extract with his hands, and whom he then tried, and failed, to lower into a lake of magma. Another was a Nazi scholar he was seen courting just last year who, I’m told, plummeted into a fathomless abyss at Dr. Jones’s hand. And, of course, no one can forget the slow decline and eventual death of Professor Abner Ravenwood after Dr. Jones’s affair with Abner’s underage daughter was made public, forcing her to emigrate to Nepal to escape the debacle.

Demonstrates successful record in undergraduate and graduate teaching:

In his nine years with the department, Dr. Jones has failed to complete even one uninterrupted semester of instruction. In fact, he hasn’t been in attendance for more than four consecutive weeks since he was hired. Departmental records indicate Dr. Jones has taken more sabbaticals, sick time, personal days, conference allotments, and temporary leaves than all the other members of the department combined.

The lone student representative on the committee wished to convey that, besides being an exceptional instructor, a compassionate mentor, and an unparalleled gentleman, Dr. Jones was extraordinarily receptive to the female student body during and after the transition to a coeducational system at the college. However, his timeliness in grading and returning assignments was a concern.

Establishment of an appropriate record of departmental and campus service:

Dr. Jones’s behavior on campus has led not only to disciplinary action but also to concerns as to the state of his mental health. In addition to multiple instances of public drunkenness, Dr. Jones, on three separate occasions, has attempted to set fire to the herpetology wing of the biology department. Perhaps most disturbing, however, are the statements that come directly from Dr. Jones’s mouth. Several faculty members maintain that Dr. Jones informed them on multiple occasions of having discovered the Ark of the Covenant, magic diamond rocks, and the Holy Grail! When asked to provide evidence for such claims, he purportedly replied that he was “kind of immortal” and/or muttered derogatory statements about the “bureaucratic fools” running the U.S. government. Given his history with the Nazi Party, I fear where his loyalty lies.

To summarize, the committee fails to recognize any indication that Dr. Jones is even remotely proficient when it comes to archaeological scholarship and practice. His aptitude as an instructor is questionable at best, his conduct while abroad is positively deplorable, and his behavior on campus is minimally better. Marshall College has a reputation to uphold. I need not say more.

My apologies,

Prof. G.L. Stevens

H/T American Digest

Musical Memories

I found this wonderful “paleolithic” video to one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs. Though I doubt it was what he had in mind, it works for me…

The ‘Net never ceases to amaze me. Looking at this, I said to Libby “First time I saw him was his first US gig, I think. The Newport Folk Festival, 1967. He looked like a rabbinical student, in a black suit– sat and sung “Suzanne” into his guitar. And it was magical. Joni Mitchell brought him out– she was wearing a horizontal striped mini- dress…”

I was wrong. The stripes were diagonal.

Rifle quiz

Pure fun for scholars of guns and readers of travel and adventure tales: how many things can you find in common on these little carbines? Oh, I will add one invisible addition for the bolt:

The first question is for tecchies; the second for readers and travelers: how many books and writers and scientists and… whatever– can you list that mention or who used either?

Credit Due

Early last July, Stacia Novy, a young military career woman, biologist, and falconer, e-mailed me an excited message that she had just been instrumental in finding the nest of a very little known Neotropical raptor, the Solitary Eagle (Buteogallus solitarius), in Belize. She attached this picture.

Unfortunately, since then, most published accounts have omitted her role, though if you do any Internet searching you will find, to quote, that she was the one who “… modified and applied traditional bird-tracking techniques… to follow the breeding/prey-carrying male eagle to the nest. This was a deciding factor, as the wild eagle was NOT radio-tagged and could not be followed any other way.” She was more experienced with raptors than many of her colleagues.

Somewhere between discovery and official reporting, a competing group apparently took over the publicity; appropriation of data is regrettably common, but allegedly some of those now claiming credit were not even in the country. A short account of the discovery is available here— scroll down– in three parts, with her role mentioned. And apparently the North American Falconers Association will publish something next season. But it would be nice to get some “official” scientific recognition for her too.

Stacia with Aplomado– no beginner in game hawking!

Fabre and Japan

This is not an analysis of the real importance, ignored these days except in Japan, of the pioneering ethologist of insects, the 19th century Provencal autodidact Jean Henri Fabre, who started life as a peasant kid herding sheep in the harsh hills of his home country, and later single- handedly invented the study of insect behavior while more or less foreshadowing the work of such 20th century greats as Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen. Suffice to say that the only personal artifact of Charles Darwin’s I have ever handled was a straightforward fan letter from him to Fabre! Here is another– there were several– that even mentions homing pigeons!

Fabre is honored in his home town, Serignan de Comtat, in the wine country near Orange and the Rhone and Mont Ventoux, which has its own fascinating history. I visited that rather non- touristy northern part of Provence in the Nineties, and have have written about birds of prey and boar hunters and food and such there; a few of those essays are in On the Edge of the Wild. But I went there with a mission: to research Fabre, and make a pilgrimage to “L’Harmas”, his house, garden, and lab, like Darwin’s in England still preserved as though he had just stepped out for a minute.

But my fan worship, and Darwin’s, paled beside that of the Japanese. I was warned, but still amazed by the arrival of a tour bus. In addition to being a student of insects Fabre was a Provencal patriot, almost a separatist, and not only spoke that odd old dialect so similar to the one my grandparents, born only a hundred- some miles to the east, did, but dressed as a Provencal herder all his days– black cowboy hat (still sitting on his bench–I tried it on) and long black cloak like a cape, boots. He just added a butterfly net.

So did the Japanese. A westerner could only stare, amazed, as a bus load of thirty or so tourists disembarked at L’Harmas, in age from about 8 to 80, male and female, each and every one in full old fashioned south- of France cowboy kit, hat and cloak and all, plus nets– and cameras. As this was the pre- digital era we are talking big SLR’s with long lenses too!

Turns out the cult of Fabre is still alive in Japan 20 years later. First see this essay: “In France, with the exception of men of letters and entomologists, few have heard of Fabre. That oft-used contemporary yardstick of recognition, Google, counts 5,670 web pages in French for Souvenirs Entomologiques and 227,000 pages for Konchuki, its title in Japanese. Perhaps there is no Japanese who has not heard of Fabre… Japanese grade schoolers know more of Souvenirs Entomologiques than do French adults.”

He is alive in every popular medium there; here is an “Edu- Manga”; a cartoon bio; here and here, two Anime characters based on him.

But I was alerted to the best by another clue in the article I quoted above: “Their [the Japanese] familiarity with the French scientist’s life work is being exploited by Seven Eleven. The convenience store chain brought out this summer a Souvenirs Entomologiques series of limited edition gifts attached to the necks of soft drink bottles.. The series comprises eight pieces — seven insects and a figurine of Fabre observing Minotaur beetles in a device of his invention.”

How could I resist? It took some emails to Thailand and “Formosa”, but I ended up with one famous Fabre insect, the “Carabe Doree”, and Fabre himself, so detailed that his magnifying glass has a lens!

What is more, the appearance of Monsieur Fabre seems to indicate that his Asian fans respect and acknowledge his home culture. In Provence, the tradition of portraying all the professions of the country as Christmas creche figures, “Santons”, lives on, and when I was there I bought several. See the character leaning over Fabre’s shoulder? He is a local hunter, a “chasseur de Provence”, complete with double gun.

Seton on the partnership

I thought I might have read about the legendary partnership of badger and coyote, and went looking for it in my set of Ernest Thompson Seton’s wonderful seven volume illustrated work Lives of Game Animals, which he compiled in 1929 toward the end of his life. This work, by the way, is a lost classic, hard to find even in libraries, and if you should find one you should buy it immediately! It is worth it for the art alone, and there’s nothing like it until Jonathan Kingdon wrote and illustrated African Mammals starting in the 1970s.

Under “friendliness”, a correspondent of his named A. H. Hawkins wrote from Alberta: “I noticed on two occasions a Badger and Coyote travelling in company… Seated one day, eating our noon lunch, I noticed two animals coming towards us, and drew the attention of my men to the fact. We remained perfectly quiet, so that they came within 20 to 30 feet of us before seeing we were so near. The Coyote travelled ahead, and the Badger followed along as fast as he could, right at the heels of the Coyote.

“I could see no reason, not could I explain it in any way satisfactory to myself, and, although I asked several people in the West about it, the occurrence is still a mystery to me.”