Good Quote

“I prefer a simpler and less fashionable version, which admits that a badger has a real sense of self, and real pleasures that it judges as outweighing its pains. Badgers are philosophers. They have an idea of the Good Life, which presumes there is a self that can lead that life. This is a self that doesn’t want to lose the neurological joys of nuzzling cubs, or the smell of wild garlic, or the smack of earthworms against the tongue. Insist if you like that all these things are the payment given by the genes for the mercenary services in their defense of the strong-jawed phenotype. That’s fine. Your insistence doesn’t dispose of the self, or the Goodness of the Life that self leads.”

Charles Foster –  Being a Beast

Jean Louis Lassez – RIP: apology

Sorry — I have not been present for days. Not entirely my fault: between the effects of having no meds for a week and a severe attack of rheumatoid arthritis in my foot, and the continuing absence of any kind of secretary, I have not been up to doing much. In the next few days I hope to get back to bits of entertainment, information, and laments. Searun has been doing a splendid job. I’m pleased — I just need a little more visibility.

Scout , RIP

Patrick Porter  (the best  writer you have never read)  on “The best bird dog east of the Mississippi”, Scout,  from Berwick, Maine.

  It didn’t go unnoticed that all the orange maple leaves had fallen on our lush green grass.  Above us….above my entire family after the sun had set, a million stars showed their way through a clear autumn evening towards the new winter and a spring yet to come.

     Upon those colorful leaves and under that sky, Scout Harriett Porter, wrapped in her favorite puffy quilt……said good bye to us…..for now.  Our hands held her body and we felt the peaceful passage because we are that kind of people.  My wonderful vet came over so she wouldn’t be frightened.

  She’s been deaf and blind for 8 months, following old paths and maneuvering her way through our unchanged house using just her nose.  If one of my boys walked in, she’d light up with barks and whines until they knelt against her for hugs and kisses.

  Eventually she grew very tired and could do no more.

 As Scout’s body failed, my own spirits seeped down towards a deep ancient stream fed by 35,000  year old glaciers from back when dogs joined man because man needed dogs.


     It will be a week or two before I climb from this primitive hole.

     Her sight went first, as did my ability to discern or care about the incandescent trees swaying beneath black October clouds, though I always look forward to this time of year. 

     When her hearing gave out, I quit listening to the unimportant things that didn’t include roaring fires or beautiful hunting dogs.

   Finally, Scout couldn’t use her back legs and began to soil herself, so I laid my dirty stripped body against hers, trying hard to up the memories of camps and beat up oiled shotguns and dead grouse and dominion over the land we hunted together when the feathered, hooved and clawed beasts fell before us.

    We’ve been inseparable  for 16 years and it shows.

   I have nothing in my ledger….no credibility in the Vermont woods as of today.  I’m outranked and outflanked by our former prey and the forest that keeps them, tired and old and slack jawed, drinking whiskey not wine because half of everything beneath my rib cage went with her.

Thank you, Scout Harriett Porter from Berwick, Maine….the best damn bird dog east of the Mississippi.

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I was going to get the Ivorybill  note from  Tim Gallagher in  fast enough to post this cartoon, but Searun beat me to it!  I will try to catch up today..



A Defense of “Genre “Literature

This started in a conversation with Chilton Williamson, late of National Review and  Chronicles  and now independent and writing a monster novel  in Laramie. It  spread to Bronwen Fullington, who attended a world science fiction convention when we were young and briefly married. The it transferred to Chas Clifton, expert in snake bites and  cougar attacks in Colorado. At that point I saw I was going into lecture mode so I thought I’d blog it. In the real world, Tom McIntyre has just replied with a stirring defense of his reading fantasy . I’ll see if I can get him to comment here.

(Me) A lot of people— see Tommy Mac- read one great genre tale or writer but are discouraged from reading more, epsecially in SF or Fantasy, because of the seemingly inherent ”Geekiness” of the field.  I believe there are enough inherent virtues in the genre that it is worth keeping an eye on It has never kept me away from “Real” fiction 

 As such things as “dystopian” writing ,it sometimes sneaks in anyway. I am talking about YOU, Rebecca. it may keep such readers safe from drug fueled nights at the computer- hey, carbidopa- levodopa in the form of Big Striped Ritary is a drug, a strong one- but it doesn’t do anything else but keep our snobberies snug. Who would miss Declare (reviewed in NR),Waking the Moon, Folk of the Air,  The Sparrow , Children of God ,and yes, The Wanderer, maybe on a slightly less elevated level. How about Ray Lafferty’s Past Master,or Cordwainer Smiths Instrumentality tales? These might more be considered religious satire or fantasy-.  Ray, who also somehow got a Native American award for some other piece of Oklahoma stuff—  !het is as Irish as Paddy’s pig.,, and one of he most wickedly sly storytellers around, with a dark Irish humor- any Miles Nacgopaleen readers here, or pogues fans> And “Smith” ” s generally thought of as a lightly surreal ‘future historian” but the firs t in his celebrated Instrumentality series, “The Dead Lady of Clown Town ” , is about the martyrdom of a dog… How about  about Poul’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows ( From Tom O’Bedlam), superior tragic (unbearably so)  ‘SPACE OPERA” rather than mainstream SF,, a decidedly inferiorn sub genre. And nobody wrote it to be Conrad until Poul consciously did’. 

 And  the very good, rather noir realist writer Peter Heller, author of Celine (easily my favorite thriller of the last few years, starring an aging American aristo  private detective,  married to a 30 something Maine lobsterman, the only portrait of a social register woman I have believed since Edith Wharton, and I lived for years with Bece, who also assured me there were none in current lit who reminded her of HER people. Anyway, she (Celine) also shoots a Savage 99 rifle ,which pleases me no end, because Bets also shot one, in “250 — 3000″ at that! Heller’s first novel, Dog Star, was dystopian SF.

To anticipate Tom’s question: Dune was a remarkable phenom because it did EVERYTHING wrong. It was first published in not only a science fiction mag but the hard core GEEKIEST of all SF markets, John Campbell’s Analog, as a SERIAL — you can’t get geekier, or less modern, than that. Only things it had going for it (minor) it had an excellent illustrator, Jon Schoenherr, whose moody black and white illos (mostly black) graced a lot of natural history work too, back in the day; and second, it was an excellent property; a great tale by a graceful and seasoned but practically unknown to the world author, some “orientalist” horseshit to make it seem real to  a reader with a taste for the exotic; some super – Bedouins who wouldn’t be ungrateful like the house of Saud; and above all, a real ecological theme, which came at the perfect time. Stewart Brand was in the saddle, and he pushed Frank Herbert over the edge to popularity….

UPDATE: Tom replies; in part:

Au contraire. Despite the presumption, I have read my fair share of SF and fantasy–Dick, Asimov, Clarke, Wells, Burroughs, half a dozen or more Tim Powers books, etc., and so on, and so forth. Certainly have never shied away from geekiness. Currently, I am reading Ted Chiang and Stanislaw Lem….

Finally, I have not only read fantasy, I have–below–written fucking fantasy, for my sins and as some may recall!

[Tom’s Snow Leopard is a unique, wonderful modern fantasy=-SB]


“World Class Bird”

In Kazakhstan, when nature photographer  Oleg Belyalov finally decided that we were serious naturalists, he wanted  to make sure we saw the best birds.

We had been out for a long day, so he took us to one of the clear little trout streams that flow through Almaty, where, in a bush on the bank, we spied one of these,

To be sure we got the point as well as a bird in our life list, he kept repeating “WORLD CLASS BIRD!”

It was. And as we had already that day seen an ibisbill,  a Eurasian black vulture, a snowcock,  and a LAMMER GEIER, it was especially noteworthy how  high Oleg  placed this bird…