Barking Backward

A Blog by Jameson Parker

The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

- Robert Frost

Profiles in C- C- C- Courage

December 20th, 2014 15 Comments

The_Interview_2014_poster

 

Hollywood has always been a hotspot of venality, where the greatest creative fiction usually takes place in the bookkeeping department, and where producers buy red ink by the barrel for those creative endeavors. But in the old days it was also a place of a certain kind of courage, a courage—if you will—of conviction.

Sam Goldwyn used to put his own home up for collateral to finance many of his movies. Michael Todd sold his interest in his own company to finance Around the World in Eighty Days, and even so finished filming the movie in enormous debt; post-production was completed with bill-collectors literally beating on the doors.

And while it was the creative side of the industry (writers, directors, actors, and to a lesser extent producers) who reveled in political lampooning, no one can deny it took a certain amount of chutzpah in 1940 to release The Great Dictator, with Charlie Chaplin reducing audiences around the world to hysterical laughter with his contemptuous send-up of Adolph Hitler and (with his writing and Jack Oakie’s performance) of Benito Mussolini. Neither Mussolini nor Hitler—especially not Hitler—were known for their shrinking reticence for expressing dissatisfaction with bullets and murder.

Greta Garbo’s Ninotchka, released in 1939, wasn’t exactly a complimentary puff-piece about the Soviet Union or about Joseph Stalin, another man not noted for his mild restraint.

Ben Affleck’s Argo, while neither a satire nor comedic in any way (save for Alan Arkin’s great line: “If I’m gonna make a fake movie, its gonna be a fake hit.”) wasn’t exactly complimentary in its portrayal of Iran.

I’m sure there are many more satirical films that I haven’t seen, and still more that don’t qualify as risk-taking, having been made after dictators were dead, or because they poke fun at American presidents who rarely have movie makers executed. But I have never before heard of a film being canceled because of threats from a tin-pot, puff ball dictator in a minor league, fourth world regime on the other side of the globe. The first amendment has just officially been sacrificed to the loudest bully. And what a pathetic specimen at that.

Apparently the only person in Hollywood today with any balls at all is George Clooney.

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Oh, Those Bad Police!

December 10th, 2014 28 Comments

Runaway

 

Protestors have been marching all around the nation, protesting police brutality. It’s hard to take some of these protests seriously, especially when they involve violence and looting, or when they take place in poverty stricken and down-trodden enclaves such as Berkley, California or Boulder, Colorado, where police brutality is such a problem and where poverty means struggling along on less than a million dollars a year. In other places, other communities, it may well be a reflection of mutual distrust between law enforcement and minorities.

Some pundits have accused both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of being divisive over this issue, making it more of a racial issue than it either is or should be, but I don’t think that’s fair. Both Obama and Holder are black men, so they can’t help seeing the world through their own particular prism any more than I can help seeing the world through the eyes of a very privileged and pampered white man.

What I do think is wrong is that both Obama and Holder, and especially Hiz Honor the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, as well as the protesters in the streets, and just about all the pundits and commentators, all of them, are screaming for more oversight of police, more restraint on the part of the police, more training for the police, more of this for the police, and less of that for the police. In other words, everyone is pointing at the police departments across America and laying the blame on them, as if all police are somehow solely responsible for all the ills of our society. This is as stupid and shortsighted as the gun control groups who blame an inanimate object for the actions of a criminal.

Not one single public person has put the blame for these incidents—whether they were justifiable or not—where it belongs, which is to say on a wide range of social and economic factors that have contributed to a black inner-city subculture of uneducated young men and women, broken families, and absent fathers, where violence is glorified, drugs are regarded as both a solace and a cool and lucrative way to earn a living, welfare is considered both a birthright and a substitute for personal responsibility, and the police—as representatives of mainstream (read “white”) society—are regarded as the enemy.

If you have young men, bursting with testosterone and energy and frustration, sitting at home with nothing to do, no education to do it with, no hope for a job, no hope for a future, no role models to follow, no moral guidance beyond violent video games and gangsta rap, and no belief in anything other than the most primal law-of-the-jungle code, what the hell do you think is going to happen?

But as far as I know (and I do try to follow the news) not one damned politician has suggested that maybe there are better places to assign blame than on the police.

I have heard blithering nonsense about shooting to wound, and I have already addressed that idiocy in an earlier blog (“Officer Involved Shootings” http://www.readjamesonparker.com/archives/2172 ) and more recently there has been a lot of equal nonsense about an “unarmed” man versus an armed police officer. Let me point something out to those of you who might not have ever had a violent physical encounter with someone: there is no such thing as an unarmed man. More people are murdered every year by what the FBI calls “personal weapons,” meaning fists, feet, and hands, than are murdered by rifles of any and all kinds, including those dweadful and scary semi-automatic rifles the government keeps trying to ban. When you add a seventy-five pound weight difference between the combatants (which is roughly the weight difference between the officer and the young assailant in Ferguson) it is a virtual impossibility for all but a tiny handful of men to prevail in such a fight. I spent twenty years studying karate (Shotokan), five years boxing, and one year studying Brazilian jujitsu. In all that time, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of men I trained with who might be able to prevail against a seventy-five pound weight difference, and three of those were professional instructors. The police get one short course on some very rudimentary self-defense tactics, and after that they’re on their own. So don’t babble on about “unarmed” men deserving kinder, gentler treatment.

But above all, don’t babble on about those evil police. Are there bad cops? Of course there are, possibly even as great a percentage as the percentage of bad people in society generally, but the vast majority of them are decent, honest men and women who do the best they can under circumstances that would make you or me or anyone else burst into tears of terror.

When you hear the sound of your back window shattering in the dark of night, who do you call? When you see a bunch of thugs beating and robbing a helpless victim, do you rush in to save the day, or do you dial 911? Do you want to be the one to try and stop drug dealers or human traffickers? If you see two rapists dragging a young girl into a car, are you going take them on, mano-a-mano?

Let’s stop bashing cops and start bashing the underlying factors that create violent young thugs of any color.

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Thanksgiving Day, 1950-Something

December 1st, 2014 26 Comments

Norman-Rockwell-Freedom-from-Want-1943

We tend to lump our childhood memories together into compartmentalized categories, categories we look back on through glasses of varying hues. Many of these overlap, so that the time you lived in the grey house with the big tree in the yard mingles with the time you went to that red brick school with the nice teacher and the nasty coach, even though in reality those two things were in separate towns, and both are confused with the period when your best friend lived across the street, and that memory in turn is erroneously conflated with memories of making gingerbread men, even though you know you’ve somehow got the timing wrong.

It doesn’t matter. Childhood memories are not historical fact, nor should they be. Instead, they are ways of lending coherence and continuity and understanding to a time when all the world was bright and new, a time when magic could be found in the mundane, and adventure lurked around every corner, just one tree branch higher, across one more street or under one more fence, or in that little creek, behind that hay bale, in that dark and mysterious wood, that corner of the barn.

So in one of my categories, Thanksgiving, we lived forever in Washington, DC in a big, old-fashioned, haunted house that really was across the street from my best friend, but every Thanksgiving was celebrated in Baltimore at the home of Uncle Bill and my father’s sister, Aunt Kitty. Their house was a vast, shingled, porch-and-column affair in Roland Park, a planned “streetcar” neighborhood (there were still streetcars in that long-ago) of tree-shaded lawns, and traffic-free streets and fallen leaves where my cousins and I would play football or tag or other nameless games, loud and shrill in the Indian-summer warmth, because the weather was always lovely and redolent of wood smoke on Thanksgiving back then. It was a Federal law the weather be lovely, a very sensible law intended to give grownups a little peace and quiet.

There were four cousins, all adored in equal measure, though in my heart of hearts it was Kathy who was my favorite, while “T” was my hero. Kathy was closest to me in age, so that was to a certain extent a natural pairing of two similarities, while “T” possessed a wild self-confidence and athleticism that made him a towering and compelling figure in the improvised games that swept across the lawns and streets, and up and down the back stairs until an authoritative voice ordered us all out again. (Grownups are so strangely immune to the imperious call of blue sky and green grass and dead leaves; but I’ll never be like that when I grow up.) Billy was the oldest, and Ellen the youngest, with my sister Judith and I falling in between, so that there was someone for everyone, no matter what the activity. And that strange intimacy between us all, as if the year’s interlude were just an afternoon apart, a weekend’s absence between games. No need to catch up, just grab the football and let’s go.

It wasn’t only wild games. There were also quiet times, sitting on Kathy’s bed with her and Ellen, talking—what did we talk about? The Hardy Boys? Nancy Drew? And even quiet times with the grownups, for I have a vivid memory of my Aunt Kitty, the prettiest girl ever to be born in Baltimore, pointing out the seashells she and Uncle Bill collected on their forays to Sanibel Island in a far off place called Florida, seashells lovingly arranged in a class-topped coffee table in a room that in my memory was a wall of glass where the sunlight always streamed in regardless of the weather conditions. I sat on the sofa next to Aunt Kitty, so beautiful, so nice, so sweet-smelling, as she named the shells one by one. Where are they now, those collected memories?

And other more docile memories: the kitchen, presided over by an ancient, white-haired lady whose name has now vanished from my memory as finally as she has from this world, presided over too by her ancient Dachshund, both of them occupying a position somewhere between employee and family member, a position as common and easy and natural in that day as it is incomprehensible in today’s world. The chain-link kennel just at the bottom of the kitchen porch steps where Uncle Bill’s amiable black Labrador retriever was contained as too rambunctious to be considered a house dog. Her name I remember well. She was Stran, Aunt Kitty’s middle name, a name chosen optimistically and unsuccessfully by Uncle Bill in the fond hope it would allow her—the dog—to come into the house, muddy paws and drumming tail and wriggling body and all. It never worked, and it was the only thing about Aunt Kitty I found incomprehensible, as our dog, our one-eyed Boxer, lived not only in the house, but mostly on my bed.

But no matter what the activity, when we were finally called in to the dining room, my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes (my father’s phrase, one I cling to now as I do to all things and times when he was alive) were rumpled at best, fragmentary at worst, shirt limp with perspiration, tie askew, gray flannel pants (there was no other kind) grass-stained at the knees, newly polished shoes scuffed, socks at half-mast, hair disheveled, flushed and happy, and my parents would look at me with despair and amusement in equal measure, just as parents all over America probably looked at their offspring filing into dining rooms from the Chesapeake Bay to the San Francisco Bay.

And that dining room! Other than lovely closeness of cousins, the other most vivid memories are of the meals. Was I always an adventurous eater? I think I must have been, but certainly at Uncle Bill’s groaning table I was. Actually, it was the children’s table; grownups sat at a white damask-covered table cluttered with place-settings, heavy silver forks and knives and spoons spilling out on either side, multiple glasses for water, white wine, red wine, napkins the size of beach towels, a centerpiece that in my memory consisted of holly and magnolia, though it was more probably different squashes and small gourds. The children’s table was in the corner by the window where our conversation wouldn’t compete with the adults, but the food was all served by Uncle Bill, just as most of it had been shot and cooked by him. He was an ardent duck hunter, an Eastern-shore boy, and it was in that dining room that I first sampled duck—canvasback, specifically—that he had shot at his club on an island in the Chesapeake Bay; venison one year; oysters on the half shell, salty and slippery and singing of tabasco-flavored sauce; crabs prepared in a multitude of styles, but mostly fried in cakes; salty hams brought up from Virginia; biscuits and cornbread; pies of pumpkin and sweet potato and the mysteriously named chess pie; small samples of wine, for that was not frowned on back in that innocent time; meals that went on and on with certain rituals time-honored and familiar.

One of these rituals always included—we children clamored for it—my father’s telling of the time from his own childhood when Aunt Kitty was admiring her new hat and dress in the reflection of the swimming pool of their childhood home (a pretentious and palatial pile called the Cloisters, open to the public now; actor Will Smith was married there) when she slipped and fell in, and my father began to laugh so hard he could barely run, and run he had to, for Kitty chased him round and round the pool with an ax in her hand and murder in heart. She always claimed he had pushed her, and during my father’s telling of this beloved anecdote of their own childhood days, Aunt Kitty’s face would take on a particular expression that combined amused forbearance, saint-like patience, and a steely glint that made me believe she was indeed capable of venting her anger with an ax.

And afterward, after the pies and port, after the stupor and the groaning and the yawning, when the grownups had been revived by short strolls around the block and pots of coffee always served on the seashell coffee table, we would drive back to Washington in my father’s green 1949 Ford, my sister and I sleeping—or pretending to sleep—on the rear seat as we listened to our parents. And in those soft oblique voices, the voices of all parents who are aware of little pitchers whose big ears might or might not be asleep, I sensed in ways I could not possibly have expressed then or even now that there was trouble in the paradise of Baltimore. Not in Roland Park or with my beloved aunt and uncle and cousins, but with other relatives, names only dimly recognized, in particular with my father and aunt’s mother, my rarely seen grandmother. I know now that she was widely regarded as the craziest woman in Baltimore, possibly on the entire eastern seaboard, but what was expressed then, in the soft voices and careful phrasing, was a quality of unbridled malice hidden by smiles, of viciousness camouflaged behind honeyed words. Many years later I would experience it all firsthand and sympathize with the memory of my poor father, and marvel at his courtesy and restraint and strength of character, but back then, in the backseat of a 1949 Ford, the words simply hinted at a world I did not wish to know, and I understood I was very lucky to be a child surrounded by love and laughter, fed on fine foods, safe in the security of Thanksgiving in the greatest nation on earth.

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Previous Post

November 23rd, 2014 4 Comments

For mysterious reasons, deletions are appearing in my previous blog, and so far I have been unable to correct them through the normal editing process. I have contacted my computer guru, and I will continue to work on it, but it meantime, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it.

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A Man May Smile and Smile and Be a Villain

November 23rd, 2014 11 Comments

Barack Obama

 

The only differences between Barack Obama and Richard Nixon are that one is a Democrat and the other was a Republican, one is telegenic and the other was not, one is slick and the other was not, and one combines ignorance of world history with incompetence in his dealings with foreign governments while the other was knowledgeable and had the foresight and diplomatic skills to open up relations with China. Other than those differences, both men share a contemptuous disregard for the constitution, the rule of law, the American public, and any ideology other than their own.

A quick bit of background on the late President Nixon: my mother was a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying Republican who regarded the Kennedy family with horror and contempt, but she was so appalled by Mr. Nixon’s antics that she and some other elderly, educated, politically and socially connected ladies set about trying to get him impeached. Recently widowed, she had the brains and time and Washington savvy to get things done. She and the other ladies were effective enough that they got noticed and the result was telephoned middle of the night death threats, an event I made use of in American Riff. (http://www.readjamesonparker.com/books-by-jameson-parker/american-riff ) Needless to say, events took another turn, and Mr. Nixon stepped down, thereby avoiding both impeachment and possible criminal charges, and my mother was not murdered.

I am not aware of any death threats made by the Obama administration, but reporters are all very aware of the consequences of any negative reporting on the president and his cronies. When Rahm Emanuel was still in the White House, he would frequently personally make angry telephone calls, complete with screaming and obscenities, calls that were designed to both/C9SZ3J9zXvyfiUO6Ddn zYeThZQpKI discourage and intimidate. Those calls are still being made, and—to be fair—it is my understanding that such calls have been made by many other administrations as well.

But where Mr. Obama and his cohorts differ is that they have taken—and attempted to take—things much further. James Rosen is a case in point. He was threatened with criminal charges by the Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice, with the Attorney General personally signing the search warrants against Rosen. Think about that for a moment: criminal charges against an established and highly regarded and internationally known reporter for doing his job. Fortunately, virtually every news organization, liberal and conservative, saw the danger in this kind of behavior and they all expressed their outrage, causing the DOJ to back off.

But now take a look at investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson. Ms. Attkisson is the CBS investigative reporter who has been nominated for, and has won, multiple Emmys for her reporting on a variety of topics, including the Department of Justice’s “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal. It was this last one, coupled with her investigation into the Benghazi disaster, which ultimately led to her resignation from CBS.

Lost in the flurry of stories about Obama’s enacting immigration laws by executive action, and the concern about the grand jury findings in Ferguson, MO, is the recent release of documents that had been personally claimed as protected under executive privilege by Obama himself. The documents are numerous, and have not yet been thoroughly reviewed, but they include emails between White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz and former Department of Justice Spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. The actual emails themselves may be seen on various sites, notably at Judicial Watch, the organization whose lawsuit forced the release of the documents.

The salient exchange between Schmaler and Schultz contains this from Schmaler:

“I’m also calling Sharryl’s [sic] editor and reaching out to [Bob, Face the Nation] Scheiffer. She’s out of control.”

Now I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, or liberal or conservative, or how you feel about the second amendment, or what you may think about President Obama and his administration, or even if you believe Machiavelli was the greatest political genius of all time. This exchange should scare the pants off you. The Department of Justice is supposed to be a completely neutral, non-partisan organization responsible for the enforcement of law and the administration of justice for all American citizens. The FBI, DEA, ATF, the US Marshals Service, and many other agencies are all under the aegis of the DOJ. If the DOJ itself, and specifically its Attorney General, Eric Holder, are corrupt enough to attempt to intimidate and discredit a journalist, you—a citizen of the United States—are at risk, because freedom, as we know it in this country, no longer is a reality. These are precisely the kinds of crimes that caused a bunch of elderly, conservative ladies to go after Richard Nixon and that ultimately forced him to resign.

And more: according to Sharyl Attkisson, both her CBS computer and her personal, home computer—an iMac—were hacked into by someone savvy and sophisticated enough to co-opt it and operate it remotely. She hired her own computer expert and found that someone had installed an extra fibet her knowledge or permission. Among other things, files she was working on would suddenly get deleted in front of her eyes.

Let’s be very clear: both Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration and her career were sabotaged as much by CBS—and you have to ask yourself if it was personal ideology on their part or a result of governmental pressuring—as they were by the White House and the DOJ, but the intimidation factor (the DOJ leaning on her bosses at CBS; messing with her computer right in front of her) are the actions of cowardly, amoral, unscrupulous, and power-hungry men. Men who are using your tax dollars to subvert your first amendment rights. Men like Richard Nixon. Men like Eric Holder. Men like Barack Obama.

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Proud to Be a Little Punk

November 14th, 2014 18 Comments

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“Wild Bill” Richardson, former California state senator, once wrote a book entitled, What Makes You Think We Read the Bills, which makes it almost certainly the most honest book ever written by any politician. Most of our elected officials don’t bother to read the bills we pay them to vet and vote on, and part of that is due to the ridiculously excessive length and complexity of many of the laws that get written. The rule of thumb is, the longer and more complex a law is (“sweeping” and “comprehensive” are the code words to watch out for) the less likely it will be read or understood by anyone, including the politicians being paid to pass the damned law, and the less effective it will be in the long run. Obamacare is a good example. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s immortal words? “We have to pass the law so we can find out what’s in it.” (It doesn’t have quite the brilliance or resonance of “…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” but what can you expect from a woman who seems to have such trouble remembering things, including her oath of office.)

Now it appears that Obamacare was more than simply labyrinthian; it was deliberately written to be obscure because the men and women who created the law knew it would never pass if the American voters actually knew what was in it. Witness the four (I have only seen three, but various news outlets allege there are four or possibly more) video recordings of Jonathan Gruber that have surfaced recently.

Who the hell is Jonathan Gruber? Jonathan Gruber is the MIT economist who was so widely touted and lauded (most famously by Nancy Pelosi, though she now claims not to have any idea who he is) as the “architect” of Obamacare. Mr. Gruber has caused quite a stir in the past year or so by giving lectures and sitting on panels around the country, and boasting about the fact that (this is a direct quote): “…this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the [individual] mandate as taxes.  If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies…In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are gonna pay in—you’ve made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.  Okay?  Just like the…people—transparent—lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.  And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever.”

And in another video he refers to the need for, “…the exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter…”

Well. I have no idea whether or not there is criminal activity here, but when I watched the footage of Mr. Gruber chortling over the stupidity of the American voter, I was immediately reminded of two things.

The first is a line from one of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, written back in the 1920s. I forget which book—or possibly short story—it comes from, but in one adventure, Wimsey twigs to the identity of the villain because of his arrogance, and he states (it’s been many a long year, so I’m paraphrasing here) that, “…the defining characteristic of all criminals is arrogance.”

It certainly is the defining characteristic of Jonathan Gruber and so many other denizens of ivy-covered ivory towers. They, the Jonathan Grubers and Paul Krugmans, the Nancy Pelosis and the Harry Reids and Barack Obamas, are all so much smarter than we stupid American voters that they know better than we what is best for us.

The other thing I was reminded of was a line from Meet John Doe, where Gary Cooper’s character, Long John Willoughby, is giving a speech and says, “I know a lot of you are saying, ‘What can I do? I’m just a little punk. I don’t count.’ Well, you’re dead wrong. The little punks have always counted because in the long run, the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.”

Perhaps the little punks spoke this past November 4th. Perhaps the little punks will speak again.

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Laws for Sale: Prices Slashed!

November 14th, 2014 4 Comments

Michael Bloomberg

I posted a blog about Washington State’s Initiative 594 back on September 3rd, entitled Democracy in Action. In it, I expressed the opinion that, no matter how you might feel about guns, it was an extremely dangerous precedent for a handful of billionaires to essentially buy the laws they want passed, even—in the case of Michael Bloomberg and some others—spending their money to influence voting in states where they don’t even live. If billionaires can use their money to curtail the second amendment, why not use it to curtail the first? Or the fourth? Or hell, what about the twenty-second; then we can keep Obama in office forever.

Well, Initiative 594 passed, even though it was eighteen pages of gobbledygook with terms so poorly defined that even the police are uncertain what it means, and even though the majority of law enforcement agencies in Washington State opposed it as both ineffective and a potentially enormous waste of their limited resources if they attempt to enforce it, and even though the initiative’s anti-gun backers admitted it will have no effect whatsoever on crime.

Now, Dave Workman writes in The Examiner  http://www.examiner.com/article/nevada-anti-gunners-submit-petitions-as-wash-activists-plan-protest that protestors plan to illustrate the idiocy of one of the law’s provisions. That provision states that if you and I are out duck hunting, or plinking at the local sandpit, and I wish to try your shotgun or your handgun, I must first go through a background check and a waiting period before you can hand the gun to me.

On December 13th, protesters plan to gather in front of the state capitol in Olympia and pass guns back and forth to each other in protest. I encourage everyone who possibly can to go to Olympia on the 13th and participate. If enough people show up and peaceably protest, it will surely be one of the more dramatic forms of civil disobedience witnessed since Mahatma Gandhi brought the British Empire to its knees with passive, non-violent resistance. I applaud the pro-gun-rights protesters; laws should not be bought and sold by billionaires who think they know best what’s right for you.

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Terms of Falconry

November 10th, 2014 7 Comments

Bodio's falcon

 

My PC computer doesn’t like Apple computers, or perhaps Apple computers consider themselves too grand to converse with PCs on a regular basis, but whatever the reason, I couldn’t send an email to someone, so Steve Bodio (http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com) was kind enough to forward my message for me.

While looking for something completely unrelated, I happened to stumble across the following verse. I don’t even know who wrote it, but I post it (and a photograph cheerfully stolen from his website) by way of a thank-you to Steve, who is a serious falconer. And because it is a damn fine little poem.

I shall not bate, for you have trained me well

And I can perch now quiet on your wrist,

Wearing my jesses, swivel, leash and bell.

Hoodshy no longer, I do not resist

That covering, for I am coming to.

Ringing above you, I wait on your word.

I reach my pitch, but I shall swoop for you,

Spread sails, then sink my pounces in the bird

You flush. I do not startle at your voice

Now or your touch, for I am fully weathered.

Haggard, your dark-eyed hawk, I wait your choice

To rest upon your glove or go, untethered.

Mantling at ease, I eschew the sky

Until you lift my hood and tell me, “fly.”

 

The following explanation came with the poem:

 

Female hawks are always used in falconry, as they are much stronger and faster than the male birds.

A hawk bates when she flutters off from the fist or perch, whether from wildness, or for exercise, or in the attempt to chase.

A hawk is said to come to when she begins to grow tame.

A hawk is weathered when she is placed unhooded in the open air, under the falconer’s eye, as part of the process of taming.

A haggard is a wild-caught hawk in adult plumage.

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When Man Becomes Prey

November 8th, 2014 20 Comments

When Man Becomes Prey

 

I have never met Cat Urbigkit, but she contributes to a blog I follow (Stephen Bodio’s Querencia) and she and I have communicated by email from time to time over the years. She knew that I had survived a bear attack and asked me to write a blurb for the book cover of When Man Becomes Prey. Normally, this would mean an advance copy would be sent out that I could read, and then write my blurb accordingly. In this case, however, Cat was pressed for time, so she emailed me a copy of the manuscript. I was duly impressed with her writing, as I have always been over the years, and I wrote that in my blurb. What I didn’t realize was how well and beautifully illustrated the final product would be. Those are her photographs in the book, ladies and gentlemen, and hers alone, and that by itself is reason enough to buy the book. It’s an extraordinary achievement.

Beyond that, however, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As cities and suburbs metastasize over the American landscape, more and more people live, wittingly or unwittingly, in close proximity to wildlife. Most of the time, this is a benign source of pleasure: deer strolling across your lawn and nibbling on your roses; woodchucks and squirrels making free with your vegetable garden; that sort of thing. But where prey animals go, predators will follow, and the inevitable confrontations between man and large carnivore will occur, with equally inevitable and unhappy results.

What Cat does so well in When Man Becomes Prey, is not only to point out the potential dangers, but to give the reader tools to recognize when things are sliding down from chance encounter to something more sinister and potentially deadly. Most of us are smart enough not to walk up to walk up to a grizzly or a mountain lion and offer it our leftover hamburger, but what most people do not understand is the significance of simply seeing a predator. The rule of thumb, as Cat points out, is that if you do see a predator, and that predator does not immediately take off running, you have a problem in the making, because when a predator becomes habituated to humans and their presence, the next step is to regard those humans as dinner. And sadly, too many otherwise reasonably intelligent people think it is cute and exciting to have wildlife around their home, and they do remarkably stupid things–such as putting out food and water–to encourage said wildlife. Apart from the potential danger to humans, the usual result is death for the animal. Yes, I know the Fish and Game experts are always quoted as saying that the predator in question will be relocated, but relocation would really mean creating a dangerous problem for someone else in some other part of the state, and so “relocated” becomes a code word for “destroyed.” It is not usually discussed, because ignorant animal lovers and so-called animal rights advocates get hysterical when they think of anything being killed, but what choice is there? If that coyote didn’t actually kill your child, it will certainly try—and may succeed—with the next child in the area where it is relocated.

I live on the opposite side of a mountain from a small community where there are, unfortunately, a lot of remarkably silly people who think it is fine to break the law and put out food and water to attract wildlife. The completely predictable result is dogs killed in their yards, human/predator encounters of varying degrees of potential danger, certain canyons closed off to equestrians for long periods of time due to mountain lion sightings, and—more personally—my friend Dan Bronson (one of the most peaceable and kindly men in the world) doing his jogging with a can of bear spray in his hand. I only wish every single person in that community could be compelled to read When Man Becomes Prey.

Beautifully illustrated, and with well-researched and well-described true-life encounters, this a must-read for anyone who lives anywhere near wildlife.

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Nibbled to Death by Ducks

October 25th, 2014 24 Comments

Nevada 2

 

I assume you’re familiar with the old truism: Just when you begin to think things can’t possibly get worse, they do. It’s is also—especially—applicable to the morons who collectively make up what we laughingly refer to as the United States government. Here is the latest, and were it not for Ron Spomer (http://www.ronspomeroutdoors.com/), a very knowledgeable and truly gifted outdoor writer and photographer, this would have been buried by the avalanche of ebola and ISIS (International Society of Islamic Swine) and all the other horrors that occur daily throughout the world:

The Forest Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture, is tasked with managing approximately 193-million acres of national forest and national grassland. Just to make sure you understand, this is NOT, I repeat, NOT government land. This is your land. You, and your ancestors before you, have paid the taxes to set this land aside for public use, which means use by you and me, the owners of this land. You, and I, and your neighbors, pay the taxes that pay the costs of preserving our land. You, and I, and your neighbors, pay the taxes that pay the salaries of the bureaucrats who supposedly manage our land. It is yours. It is mine. It is ours. It is most emphatically NOT the government’s.

But now the Forest Service wants you to have to petition them for the right to photograph or film any activities that you might wish to enjoy in your wilderness areas. Want to film your fishing trip? You will have to apply for a special permit. Want to take a photograph of yourself with a deer you took? Apply for a permit. And it’s not as if you must apply for a permit that must be given out. You must apply for the permit, and the Forest Service may—at their discretion—grant it. If you want to photograph a hunt, it almost certainly will not be granted, because the Forest Service has a dubious record of supporting hunting, even though it was hunters who originally fought to have this land preserved.

The basis for this new over-extension and abuse of governmental authority is a law that states that no one is supposed to make money off the use of public lands. The law’s intent was to keep individuals and corporations from destroying our land while making a profit from it, i.e., slapping up a housing development, say. It was not intended to prevent a camper from writing about and photographing his wilderness experience for sale to a magazine so he can earn the money that will be taxed to pay the salaries of the idiots who come up with this crap. On his blog, Ron Spomer cites a news agency that was quoted a $1500 price tag for the permit to film within a wilderness area. I don’t know about you, but that price tag would effectively keep me out.

Apart from the governmental overreach and abuse, treating the tax-paying citizen like a serf, there is another issue here. Your first amendment right to free speech is also at risk here. The moment the government says, “You must petition us to exercise your right to free speech,” it ain’t a right any more. And it won’t stop there; when has the government ever rescinded a law for being a violation of constitutional right, save when forced to by the Supreme Court?

Until December 3rd, 2014 you can make your voice heard by commenting on this site: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/04/2014-21093/proposed-directive-for-commercial-filming-in-wilderness-special-uses-administration#p-21. The comment bar is at the top. Please comment and comment often. Be polite, but let the fools know exactly how you feel about this. Tell your senator and congressman too. Tell the world how our government is nibbling away at our constitutional rights.

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