They’re Killing Pigeons Again

Tyrants end up killing pigeons; I don’t know why, but they do. Franco almost made the traditional old- fashioned competition “thief” pouters of southern Spain, like the Rafenos I keep, extinct. The Taliban’s mere sixteen “Commandments”, including ones against sorcery and NOT growing beards, include one, the fourth,”To prevent keeping pigeons and playing with birds. Within ten days, this habit/ hobby should stop. After ten days this should be monitored, and the pigeons and other playing birds should be killed.”

It worked- there are more Afghan highflyers in Salt Lake City than in Kabul today.But all kinds of totalitarian and even just Nannyists ar e tempted.Even before they tore out the hutongs, the remnants of an older city, Beijing’s pigeon flyers were harrassed by fanatical Maoists.And Chicago bans them as totally as the Taliban did, along with foie gras and at least until recntly, handguns…

But the Islamic “State” goes them one better; notoriously, they kill the OWNERS too, even if they are teeneaged boys. Syria, along with Turkey, has the most fine ancient breeds; it is where, if you beie the Turkish legends, and I do, the nomads  stopped and took the pigeons they took in their horse carts out, and settled.What is sure is that they have more genetic  diversity, and more breed “roots, than any other place. So now the crazies are desrtroying an ancient genetic heritage as well.

Look at these “refugees”:

They are Bagdads, the first letter carriers, now show birds, kept and illustrated by Darwin (above) and me…

THey are also ancestor to the German, or Nuremberg Bagdad, or Scanderoon (from “Iskander”, Alexander), which looks different from the English bird today– but the old type is like both…

It may not be a crime like killing humans, but it is certainly on a level with destroying art.

In need of correction…

From a recent Guardian, as reported in the PLF blog. These children can’t be serious– I have see better reporting by high school students in rural New Mexico… 

A review of David Astor: A Life in Print,
a biography of the former editor of the Observer, contained a number of
errors (20 February, page 7, Review). In the article we suggested that
William Waldorf Astor was named after a hotel, when in fact his name
referred to the family’s native Rhineland village. He didn’t build
Cliveden, as we suggested, but bought it, and he didn’t sack the editor
of the Observer for spiking his contributions (although he did sack the
editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, another Astor acquisition, for spiking
his contributions). We said Katharine Whitehorn was women’s editor of
the Observer when in fact she was a columnist. We said Patrick Leigh
Fermor compared David Astor to Disney’s Pluto; Fermor actually compared
the writer Philip Toynbee to that cartoon character. Terence Kilmartin
replaced Jim Rose as Observer literary editor, not JC Trewin. During the
war, David Astor didn’t merely suffer “a mild attack of dysentery” as
suggested in the review. In fact he was wounded in action during a
German ambush in the Ardennes. Terence Kilmartin is believed to have
been involved in his rescue, and Astor was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Worst Design Idea EVER

From California Home and Design, proving once and for all that everything you suspected about California is true…

To quote them, “Enter the second-floor 1908 library… Designing for a modern family, DeSousa was challenged to fill the shelves with real books when today most are read with an iPad. With the help of, a site that provides salvage books by the linear foot, DeSousa adorned the shelves with hundreds of paper bound books.”

And painted them all white.

Save the Dioramas!

I grew up looking at great dioramas, the magical combinations of painting and taxidermy that rose to a high art in the early twentieth century. Perhaps their highest expression is in two halls that depict the habitats and wildlife of North America and Africa in my favorite museum in the world, The American Museum of Natural History in New York. Every lover of “naturalist” art should make at least one pilgrimage to see them, but meanwhile, Stephen Quinn has written an excellent book that shows most of them and explains their genesis: Windows on Nature.

Yesterday a good friend, the artist and sculptor Tony Angell,  forwarded an alarming letter from Quinn. Apparently another unique set of dioramas in Minnesota, featuring painting by such masters as Francis Lee Jacques, is under threat of destruction by the usual flock of visually and historically ignorant illiterates who think change and trendiness trumps beauty and history. His is a long letter, but dense with information– let me snip a bit.

“I’m writing to inform you all of some disturbing plans that I have just learned about for the James Ford Bell Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many of you may know that the Bell Museum possesses what are, arguably, the most magnificent collection of natural history dioramas done by the great wildlife and bird artist, Francis Lee Jaques. Also represented in this priceless diorama collection are the contributions of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Robert Bruce Horsefall, Charles Abel Corwin, and pioneer diorama designer, famed Ornithologist and early conservation activist Frank Chapman.

“Late in his career at AMNH, Jacques assisted in the design of the Bell Museum building to facilitate and assure its primary objective of optimum display for its dioramas and, through the 40s and into the 50s, designed, directed construction of, and painted the backgrounds for a series of dioramas that can be considered his best… Jacques was originally from Minnesota, grew up on its prairies, northwoods boundary waters, and hunted waterfowl on its, then, vast and wild wetlands… These scenes of thousands of Snow Geese over windswept marshes, Sandhill Cranes alighting on a spring prairie meadows, or majestic Moose in the northern lake country all evoke such a compelling illusion and sense of place and personal presence that one is struck by the ABSENCE of the cries of the birds or the chill of the north wind on one’s cheek when standing before them.

“Sadly, I have learned last week that the Minnesota State Legislature has approved funds to build a new natural history museum on the University of Minnesota campus at Saint Paul and this new plan calls for gutting the interior of the Bell Museum in Minneapolis, an attempted removal of some of its unique collection of irreplaceable dioramas in order to “reinterpret” some in the new museum, and the possible storage or disposal of the rest.

(Snip)”…  to attempt to extract these great works from the alcove settings in which they were specifically designed and fabricated to be viewed in, is a folly and loss for the generations to come that will never see them under those intended conditions. Removed, “re-purposed”, “re-interpreted”, or “re-designed” to become “relevant” and “useful” to today’s University of Minnesota, will inevitably mean that they will find themselves adapted as “open-air”, “immersive”, or “walkthrough” dioramas… they will become even more vulnerable to the whims of ambitious exhibit designers, short-sighted curators, and a nature-deprived public who, with a constant diet for the latest techno/interactive bombardment, cannot begin to understand their value historically, scientifically, or artistically as the remarkable replicas and record of a wilderness they can not comprehend, in this new setting.”

(Snip) “The James Ford Bell Museum is THE ONLY remaining building in NORTH AMERICA that was specifically designed, in its entirety, as a standing theater for natural history dioramas. It’s very exterior structure; site plan and interior floor plan reflect this. It is superbly, and perfectly “fine-tuned” for this purpose. There are NO OTHER buildings like it in the US or Canada!!!  As such, it is just as significant, both architecturally and artistically, as the Biological Museum of Gustaf Kolthoff and Bruno Liljefors in Stockholm, Sweden, and the grand Akeley Hall of African Mammals or the magnificent Hall of North American Mammals in New York….  They were all created by the great naturalists/artists/ scientists and educators of their time, requiring extensive and costly travel and expeditions, unique and groundbreaking fabrication techniques, and embraced a mission to present an illusion of nature so powerful and compelling that, it can be argued, they will NEVER be equaled again.

(Snip) “We MUST all spread the news of this impending tragedy with a letter-writing campaign to the critical individuals involved… The threat to that building and those dioramas needs to be clearly known and it’s loss clearly recognized and understood by all who are making this decision.

 “… Also, notably, I have learned that the University, itself, does not view the dioramas favorably, but sees them as “archaic and old” and does not consider them a priority in the plans for their future museum, and would prefer not to address them at all. What is to prevent the University from, in the future, allocating funds away from the dioramas, sighting the VERY high costs for the proper removal, conservation, and reconstruction of these dioramas as not worth it?… In a relatively short time, they are likely to be considered diminished in value and therefore disposed of.”

Here is a site with more links and images. I will update this as soon as I have more contacts. Stay tuned…

One afterthought: friends and scholars– Jonathan Kingdon, John McLoughlin– and writers and scientists I have never met– Stephen J Gould, Ed Wilson, Richard Dawkins– have all written in praise of the traditional museum that formed and nurtured them. Do ultramodern, interactive, “Game”- themed, info- free installations have any such potential? Without the Harvard and later,  New York Museums, I don’t know that I would have the interests I do today, or this blog.

It is official

You might have figured it out in comments below but it is official: because the Feds are allowing a three- decade exemption for wind farms to kill as many eagles as they “need” to, and because they exert no pressure on tribal use (right and understandable for religious practice, but ignoring the profitable if clandestine traffic in feathers for dance costumes), falconers will no longer be allowed to catch “up to six” eagles for falconry in areas of proven depredation, exactly reversing the win- win scenario Cat details below.

Nobody ever took six a year, an infinitesimal part of the breeding surplus; ranchers had proven predators removed; falconers got the companionship of one of the world’s formidable predators, often for decades, and the chance to participate in one of if not THE oldest falconry tradition on earth, at least six thousand years old.

Presumably if we do not fight this it means “for three decades?” Or forever?

And why in hell not allow trapping in wind farms?

No more of this!


Courtesy of Reid,we learn that UC Boulder has banned costumes based on Indians, cowboys, “Mexicans” and– costumes?!– white trash.

Having spent time at the bar today after the week’s second funeral, I can only conclude that any image of me or my neighbors is now verboten. (Images NOT from today– we don’t take pics at funerals, but every one is a local friend).

Monico Baca, whose funeral I just attended, owner Darrel, California- Montana transplant
Juan, one of our Spanish majority town’s three actual Mexicans, and a cowboy

 The ones above may not be what you think, (which individual above is ethnic Italian?)  but the last three may especially confuse the taste police: John Paul Jones Apachito (an Alamo Navajo) impersonating an Irishman on St Paddy’s; Tyler Chavez, half Italian miner and raised ranch Mormon, now getting back his patronym “Scartaccini”, and his wife Kayla;  Cody Henderson and Neal Harris– both half “Spanish” as we say here, but only Cody is considered “Hispanic”.

We as a society are more label- mad than white South Africans used to be, but not in “real integrated” Magdalena, thank God.

Oh– et moi, Boston ethnic cross who came here 30 very odd years ago…

Definitions of “Assault Weapon”

From The Truth About guns, answers to a poll. There are a hundred more, mostly if not all about this accurate:


Pigeons vs Humaniacs

Chris Landauer of Border Wars sent me a note a couple of weeks ago on the ARista’s war on pigeon racing. Since then I have been roaming the Internet, too busy and too pissed off to to write a calm essay on the kind of people who would persecute old men, some of them who have made real connections to youngsters of different cultures, for being “racketeers” for betting on races. They claim it is cruel because some don’t make it home (they don’t know most ferals are more homer than not), and that some substandard birds are “culled” (and eaten), a practice and term that they seem to think unique to pigeon keepers….

It would of course be easy to sue the sport out of existence, of course; though the Queen of England and some wealthy Belgians fly birds,  the old working class cartoon character Andy Capp on the other side of the channel and ancient ethnics like my late grandfather in the US are more typical, as are young blacks and city Hispanos. And given its nature as a HOMING sport, its targets are stationary, unable to go underground. Add irrational fears of diseases that pigeons don’t even carry, the latest being bird flu…

And then I thought, to hell with reasoned arguments; better to go with my initial reaction. So here are some of the calmer parts of my reaction to Chris…

“God, Chris, I get so sick of it all.

” ‘It’s so crooool, but they are all old and they’re going to die soon so we’ll LET them’…

“And another human- animal hybrid culture, another meme, another selected association of unique genes goes back into the undifferentiated pond; another joy is taken from us, there is one less thing to distract the young from the all- flattening difference- ending locale- killing biophobic Almighty Screen. How many youths in how many places once took baskets of pigeons miles to ‘toss’ and raced them home, as I did? No more pigeons, hunting dogs, ferrets, horses but for the rich, ratting, snake catching. Oddly my grandson probably WILL do many of these, but will he be a social outcast for it? And WHERE will he do it?

“And me- my salukimorphs are wanted, and my hawks. But who will pick up my unique genetic stream and crosses when I am gone, my wild hawk- evading homers, my crossbred and reconstructed old Spanish pouter breeds? Eli is too young, and his parents still live in the city; US cities are banning them outright by name (Chicago, Bozeman) or just making it  virtually impossible to keep or God help us FLY them.

“No answers but… Pigeon racing CRUEL? What absolute bullshit. The only beings that never suffer are– DEAD.”

A last thought: vegetarian and fine writer Sy Montgomery, who wrote beautifully about them in Birdology, knows better, and has more wise biophilia in her little finger than all of HSUS…

Photos from Scotland and Turkey, where pigeon culture still not only exists but thrives. The last pix including the cupboard loft are in the restaurant in Urfa where I used to eat lunch.

My relatives are OK

Federico wondered if my relatives were OK. As I have three sisters who regularly run the Marathon it was a serious question. The twins did not go up from Pittsburgh this year, and Anita St John was at mile 20 when the bombs went off at the finish line.

However, my sister Wendy, a head nurse, is apparently working on the victims, and there are or at least were armed guards on the hospital doors.