Thursday, July 28, 2016

Brad's Miss Jane

Brad Watson's new novel makes the NYTBR-- above the fold, with a photo one that one friend teased "has that Sam Shepard vibe". Congratulations!
I like all of Brad's work, but this one is rich- ma ybe his best? I will give it proper review when I finish

Maybe some of his skill or at least luck will rub off on the standing desk he brought to the blog party for me.. The computer swivels two ways for Libby and me (notice  I am so eager to test it that I am still wearing my hat- I am generally not so "cow" as to wear my hat when writing)...























Monday, July 25, 2016

What Kirk Saw

Feather dinos!


Feather Dinos with colors
An Oviraptorid nest, with a comparison to a brooding Peregrine-- a thing "wings" could be used for before flight..
Antarctic Explorer Lincoln Ellsworth's shotgun :
Australopithecines!




















Smithsonite (Magdalena's official mineral)
TR & Kirk


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visiting the American Museum

For a certain group of American naturalists, probably mostly for boys growing up in the fifties, the AMNH in New York City, referred to familiarly as "The American Museum",  was the greatest influence, almost a mentor in itself .  (Though one must be wary of such sweeping statements. Will Beebe probably did more for women in the biological sciences than anyone in his time, simply by including them in his expeditions, and Father Anderson Bakewell always muttered that Betsy Cowles Partridge was a better climber than the misogynistic Bill Tilman, and that Tilman jinxed their expedition by referring to her as "a woman to cook for us", allowing Hillary and Tensing to summit by their route on the next year).  Later such women as Sylvia Earle would be prominent in those circles in their own right.

Will Beebe with Jocelyn Crane; below, with Bathysphere



 But in the fifties, my world was formed by the AMNH, its writers, books, and dioramas, Akeley's Hall of African mammals:







 The North American dioramas, so well documented in Windows on Nature
.


The striding Colonial figure of Roosevelt with his Indian and Zulu companions:


















The dinosaurs, the birds: the great blue whale:

And above all, by the BOOKS, great ones by Beebe, exciting ones by Andrews and Raymond Ditmars, informative but infuriating ones by Hornaday (he wanted conservation but one of his means of achieving it was to deport all the Italians!); exotic ones by Kermit Roosevelt, Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay.

Hornaday and endangered buffalo

RCA with pet vulture in Mongolia

RCA with Model 99!














Keermit roosevelt

Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay with Lama
I ate it all, indiscriminately, as I did that of a generation nearer my own; Peter Mattthiessen, and the playboy turned edgy artist and conservationist Peter Beard were obviously cut from the same cloth. It says something about my naivete that I never even thought of the fact that, as Betsy Huntington put it with mild exasperation, "All those people were richer than GOD".  I thought everybody had adventures and wrote about them, so I found ways, and did. Later I was inducted as a fellow into the Explorers Club, a sort of unofficial annex across the street. Bakewell was recruited as a member of the crew of the first circumpolar flight in the bar of the EC! Before the war, adventurers seemed to belong to the Social Register, the AMNH, and the Club. Kirk recently sent me some xeroxed pages about Carter Burden's Komodo Dragon expedition in the 20's (I have the book- isn't he the grandfather of the editor of Vanity Fair?), from a book called All About Scientific Expeditions, and seeing that it also had Beebe  et al, I asked if it should better be called "All About Scientific Expeditions by New York socialites"? During the war, other organizations recruited there too. It was not for nothing that the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, was known as "Oh So Social."  Jameson Parker reminded me that even left- wing Peter Matthiessen had his CIA days...

It was really a meritocracy, though, and you didn't have to be rich, a New Yorker, or even an American to belong. My old teacher Francois Vieullumier, a Belgian, is now an ornithologist emeritus at the AMNH, and I have a book that shows two prominent European ornithologist as associates (I found  it -- can't remember buying it ever-- IN MY LIBRARY... don't ask!)

It didn't matter that I was a young teen- aged kid from Massachusetts when I first saw it (I had already been reading the books), or that my friend Kirk Hogan was from Wisconsin; we found the books, and ways to get there, all manner of "Theres". Last week Kirk, who among other things is a geneticist, an anesthesiologist, a lawyer, an elk hunter, a  woodcocker, a gourmand, and a  fly fisherman, took some French friends there on a pilgrimage.  Here are some of the things he saw.

Hmm- images seem full. Continued in next post!

Tanuma Photos


I have carried around a 1969 Life magazine (with a photo of Ted Kennedy just post- Chappaqudick on the cover!) because it has a gallery of wonderful images by photographer T Tanuma.Yesterday, hoping to put them in a more secure mode, I photo'd them.These are some of the results.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

"James Bond's Armourer"

Geoffrey Boothroyd really did write me on Model 12 Winchesters. He also really held that "position"- a critical letter to Ian Fleming on guns, early in the series, led to Fleming's whimsically writing him into the books as a character.
With Fleming, early in his career.
Here is the Winchester letter. He later provided an intro to John Hill. "Johnny UK", who became a good friend, over our mutual interests in Darnes.


























Of course it was a young and beautiful Betsy who, with Joan van Ness, attended a wild party at Goldeneye, Fleming's Jamaica estate. Everybody knows everybody.

Interactive Olgii

Belatedly (because of TOO MUCH GOING ON the past few weeks), an unusual interactive video of eagle hunters in Olgii, courtesy of local reader James Cherry. If I were to guess,. I would say it is on the hill on the east side of valley, south of Olgii town, near where Manai used to live...

That scene of the meal makes me positively nostalgic.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fine Shotguns: A Review

Subtitled The History, Science, and Art of the Finest Shotguns from Around the World,  John Taylor's big- format paperback from Skyhorse is both more ambitious and far more difficult a task than it might appear to be, and for the most part he has succeeded splendidly. No, that's not fair; he HAS succeeded; that is to say, I have minor disagreements with him, of opinion not fact;  I might emphasize a few things he doesn't; and I would recommend this book to anyone who is beginning to untangle the mysteries of shotguns, without reservations. At the moment, it is the best "Freshman course" on fine doubles around, especially if you are an American, and I suspect it will be the standard for some time to come.

 What rivals does it have? Johnny Barsness's Shotguns for Hunting is a great book, and I wouldn't be without it. It is the best and most general book on what shotguns are, how they work, and how to use each kind for the proper game that exists, but it is about ALL shotguns, as its title suggests, while Fine Shotguns is about what Libby calls the pretty ones: double guns, both side by side and over and under. Only a few repeaters are so much as mentioned - the Ithaca 37, its predecessor the Remington 17, and the legendary Winchester Model 12, a gun that the late Geoffrey Boothroyd, "James Bond's Armourer", once wrote me was more esthetic in his eyes than the far more expensive Model 21 double, the favorite shotgun of Hemingway and O'Connor, thereby committing a sacrilege in the eyes of many Americans. But my father, an artist AND a hunter, sold his Model 21 and kept his 16 gauge Model 12 and his Browning Sweet 16. .John Barsness says: "...my favorite Chukar gun these days is the 6 1/4 pound 16- gauge Model 12 pump I bought from Steve Bodio a few seasons ago....This little 16 is also my favorite early season sharptail and Prairie chicken gun", and adds (not in the book) that it handles "like a Purdey"." It  doesn't, actually, but this is the kind of superlative the old Winchesters tend to attract.

UPDATE: here are my father's favorites in an old ad display from Shooting Sportsman online, courtesy of Daniel Riviera:

I must tell you a few more things this book is NOT, to tell you what its virtues are, as almost all my other modern gun books, good ones, often by friends, fall into certain categories. It is not a specialized monograph, not a book on just Purdeys or just Bosses or  just Parkers or LC Smiths or "British Boxlocks" (Diggory Hadoke) or "Spanish Bests" (Terry Wieland). Nor is at detailed look at a kind of technical aspect of guncraft, like Vic Venters' book of that name, or any of Steven Dodd Hughes' books. It is not even a buyer's manual. telling you how to pick a good British gun for yourself for a reasonable price -- reasonable price by today's standards -- like Terry's Vintage British Shotguns or Diggory's Vintage Guns for the Modern Shot. It is certainly not a textbook for the obsessed, showing tiny details of vintage gun construction, like Braden and Adams' Lock, Stock, and Barrel. I have every one of these books and again would not be without them. And not ONE , except possibly Barsness's, would be of the slightest use to a beginner. They all automatically assume a level of knowledge that most people simply don't have, so they start collecting shotguns and making expensive mistakes.

I started my shotgun training in the late 60s and early 70s. I had mentors -- the late Callanan brothers of Cambridge, Massachusetts -- and read Gun Digest and O'Connor and Keith. They taught me a lot, but only the Callanans were reliable oracles. Betsy Huntington later said that we should have bought a Purdey and a Boss back then and been done with it. Instead, we traded through perhaps a hundred guns, gaining our education but losing a lot of money.

Very few books that came along in those years were worth the price. Don Zutz, a quirky Michiganer, wrote two books that were more right than wrong. A Missouri school teacher, Michael McIntosh, before he became a white-bearded eminence, wrote a modest book called The Best Double Guns Ever Made in America. I eventually tried my hand at it myself (too soon), producing Good Guns and Good Guns Again. Zutz's books and mine were full of mistakes; McIntosh seems to have survived the ravages of time better. This book is in their spirit, but is better and more accurate than any of them.

Fine Shotguns briefly defines what a high-grade shotgun is, then covers America's best doubles; Britain's finest, with a heavy emphasis on London guns; the Continent, not counting Spain and Italy, which have their own section; such arcana as hammerguns, smallbores, and pairs. He then lays out all the parts, pieces, and features of a shotgun -- stocks, fit, checkering, barrels, finishing; tells you why a bespoke shotgun is special; he tells you how to shoot a fine shotgun and what kind of ammo to use, the good implication being that you WILL shoot your shotgun. He talks about care and gunsmithing. And finally, he deals with that fraught subject, shopping for one.

Necessarily, such a book will be broad, but perhaps a bit shallow. If it wasn't, it would be six inches thick, cost $500, and no one would buy it. Instead, Skyhorse has given us a 240 page, high- quality paperback, printed in China, for $35, which probably would have saved me five figures had I had it around in 1975. Buy it.

Uncontacted





Andaman Islanders perhaps?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pre-review

I read Larry Millman's At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic, a few months ago, and was so impressed I immediately gave him him  a blurb. I didn't give it any more thought until checked today to see when it was coming out, and he told me they were using my quote in its promotion. I checked it out on Amazon, thought about it, and decided to use the quote to convince everyone to pre-buy it .

Larry has been lots of places, including to Pacific islands, but is best known for his arctic writing (Bruce Chatwin called him "Eskimo".) This book may be his best. The quote?

"Larry Millman’s At the End of the World is many things: a loving description of Inuit life; an account of the end of the world that has already happened; and a jeremiad against the computer, all told in a voice that is a cross between the dark aphorisms of E M Cioran and the timeless portraits in Chatwin’s The Songlines. In it you will learn that Thoreau is the only person in the afterlife without a computer, and see a carving of Donald Duck, with the detailed body of an Eider. Read it and weep for the Old Ways that we have lost.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Old Timer's

Nothing amiss- the camera ran out of juice just as Libby was beginning to take photos, and we are awaiting others' pics.  Here are a few, some "stolen" from Linda Smiley's newsletter.


Cousin Nina McCabe and Holly Hagy, Ghost riders


Me & Bodie in Shelby Mustang. John L Moore says " Still a rascal after all thee years.."

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Old dog

The tragic thing about Scottish deerhounds is their short life span- even HALF deerhounds, like my old dog Riley (left), may only live nine years.

His brother Ruffus, even bigger- he killed an antelope once- lived to only eight.
So it is with great pleasure that I announce the thirteenth birthday of Margory Cohen's Stella. She looks great, too. Congratulations to you both...


Friday, July 01, 2016

Gunny in native dress

Gunny, Tina Garfield's Anatolian, is the biggest dog we know, bigger even than other flock protection dogs.  Libby used  to weigh him on the postal  scales when he was a  baby. He thinks he still  fits on it.

 Tina just got him a proper Turkish dress collar. He doesn't quite know  what to make of it...