Friday, January 29, 2016

Ice fishing

I

I remember a little boy at an air show
Gazing in fascination at the helium balloon
Tied by a string to his finger,
Utterly oblivious to the Blue Angels roaring over our heads.
I think sometimes of the pilots,
Knights of the air
Steeped in complexity,
With hundreds of hours of textbook mastery
And thousands of hours logged in the cockpit,
Surrounded by buttons and switches and dials,
And of the little boy with his simple noble-gas miracle,
And think of them as colleagues
Partners in flight.

II

An old man is out on the ice;
A friendly fellow, he waved as we drove by.
The colors stand out on the snowy expanse:
He sits on an orange bucket that once held drywall compound,
A yellow chainsaw, a green thermos, and a coffee can beside him.
Red can. I won't lay a bet, but it just might be Hills Brothers.
Behind him, pageantry plays out,
The sport of kings:
The hounds zigzagging through the woods,
The hawk following above,
The silver song of Lahore bells carrying through the still winter air.
And though a couple of rabbits run out of the woods
And then dash back in closely pursued,
The old man never turns to take notice.
With earflap hat pulled down against the cold,
And perhaps a lifetime in a machine shop behind him,
It's possible he's unaware of our presence.
But maybe, I think, he's simply rapt,
Engrossed in his own version of sport,
Waiting for the pressure on the line
That connects him to another life,
To another world where they breathe water
And everything happens out of sight.

III

Eventually, the hawk pins a rabbit to the ice of the creek.
The hawk eats on my fist as we walk back to the car,
The dogs eagerly anticipating their share.
As I wash my bloody hands in the snow,
The falling sun painting the cottonwoods in flaxen tones,
The old man's Carhartts glow in a patch of sunlight,
Wheat-coloured canvas transformed into burnished gold,
And I find myself thinking of that yellow balloon.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Cool" hits the big time, 37 years later

Madison Avenue knows how to sell cars, and by this point, using a decades-old song in an advertisement isn't exactly ground-breaking. You can probably identify some cars just by the songs: "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. "Eminence Front" by The Who. AC/DC, "Back in Black". Bob Seger's "Like a Rock"—I don't know if that one still airs, but I guarantee you're thinking of Chevy trucks right now. Were I back at WLUR-FM, I'm sure I could fill at least an hour of airtime with co-opted classic rock hits.

But I was not prepared for this: I'm sitting in front of the TV in the break room at work. The Weather Channel (I think) goes to commercial break. A new ad for Lexus; I'm a Subaru guy, and not remotely in the market for a car, so I start to tune out...holy hell, is that Pylon?!?!

Yes, yes it is. A major automobile company is using a song from 1979 by a semi-obscure band from Athens, Georgia to tout their latest luxury sedan. "Cool", a.k.a. track 2 on the perhaps ironically-titled Hits. (Well, maybe it's not ironic, but it does need to be kept in perspective...)



Pylon may be best known to "outsiders" for their influence on another band, neighbours and contemporaries: R.E.M. did a cover of "Crazy"; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted, "I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that Chronic Town came out and being suddenly depressed by how much better it was than our record." I missed out on a few aspects of the Athens music scene (I only arrived there in 1991), but I did get to see Pylon at the 40 Watt, and I can assure you that they were the real deal.

Thanks, Lexus, for the flashback. And for the benefit of those who were not there, here's the full song, complete with Vanessa Briscoe Hay's jarring vocals (and, incidentally, Pylon's trademark schematic/spec-sheet graphics):



Enjoy...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Farewell, Colonel Brandon

I received word this morning that the actor Alan Rickman has passed away at the age of 69. This is salient partly because my darling Jessa is one of several women in my life to have expressed a crush on him; I have been heard to mutter on more than one occasion, "Alan Rickman...how I loathe him." In truth, though, I admire his work, and more importantly, he does seem to have been an admirable man. For evidence, I cite his 50-year involvement with his wife, a London councillor—need I point out that long, stable relationships seem to be even more rare among actors and politicians than in the general population? Additionally, he seems to have been generous with his time to fans and generally beloved by his co-workers.

He was probably best known for portraying Severus Snape, but my favourite Rickman role was Col. Brandon in Ang Lee's version of Sense and Sensibility. I had hoped to embed a clip from the film, but can't seem to get it to work, so I'll simply suggest watching it in its entirety...as we will doubtless do this evening.


Jess was teary this morning, and apologised for the fact—needlessly, as I assured her. One of the oddities of celebrity is that one can be missed even by those one has never met. In this case, I suspect, the sense of loss is warranted not by the characters the man played, but by the character of the man.

Friday, January 1, 2016

"Centralia, PA"



Another one from Rogue Valley. (Jess got me the album for Yule). Ellie and I had this track on repeat on the way to and from hawking yesterday. Brilliant song, and a true story—in fact, the lyrics understate it in some ways.

Friday, December 25, 2015

"Geese in the Flyway"



HT Jessica.

Do you believe?

A recycled post from five years ago; one of my favourite pieces:

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

—Francis Pharcellus Church to Virginia O'Hanlon in The Sun of New York

Saint Nicholas. Father Christmas. Sinter Klaas. Santa Claus. Known by all these names and more, he is one of the most recognizable characters in Western consciousness. In the English-speaking parts of the world especially, but elsewhere as well, his image has been shaped by writers like Clement Clarke Moore and Charles Dickens, and even more importantly by visual artists like Thomas Nast, John Leech, and Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom, who also created the Quaker Oats label, did a series of paintings for Coca-Cola in the 1930s that essentially locked in Santa's image: often depicted previously in other colours (most often green) and sometimes as a younger, trimmer figure (see, for example, Leech's illustration of Dickens' "ghost of Christmas present"), he is now depicted almost exclusively as...well, I needn't bother with a description, for you all know what Santa Claus is supposed to look like.

And yet I see him differently: More barrel-chested than pot-bellied. His coat is not red, nor even green, but the subtle and beautiful brown of sealskin. There is perhaps just a bit of white fur trimming, from an arctic fox or maybe even a polar bear, taken reluctantly and with genuine reverence. Under his hood, his face is not pale and rosy-cheeked but the colour of an old penny. No beard; I can't even think where that idea might have come from. His nose is broad, and his eyes are narrow, genetics combining with a lifetime of squinting into bright Arctic sunlight reflecting off water, snow and ice to give him a look as sly as it is jovial. His age: indeterminate. Clearly he's an elder, no doubt a man of standing in his village, but he retains a certain youthful vigor, the natural athleticism of the hunter.

His traveling companions are not reindeer, but husky dogs, and they are hitched not in pairs along a gangline but in a fan pattern, Arctic-style, for there are no trees to get caught up on and few if any established trails to follow; the dogs spread out and run as a pack, which allows them to choose their own footing and probably feels more natural to them. His sleigh is light and flexible, as well-adapted to the conditions as the dogs that pull it.

I believe, based on excellent presents I have received over the years, that he is in fact a falconer. He flies a gyr, of course, at ptarmigan and Arctic hares. Its jesses are sealskin, its bells silver Pakistani ones acquired in the course of the old gentleman's travels. (Somehow I don't think he uses telemetry, trusting instead to his senses and the openness of the terrain to locate his hawk after a long flight.) When game is flushed, and only then, he does yell "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Otherwise, as befits a man who has spent half his life in close quarters in a small village, and the other half alone in the wilderness with his dogs and hawk, he is soft-spoken, his voice barely rising above a whisper, which might give strangers the impression that he is shy when in fact he is merely self-contained.

As for his kindness and generosity, again I believe those are explained by the realities of village life in the Arctic, where everyone is interdependent and a hunter's good fortune is naturally shared with others. Our man travels more widely than his neighbours, into regions where his generosity is considered remarkable, but at home he is just a solid citizen—as I said, a man of standing in the village. On these travels, he is pleased to help the locals celebrate Christmas, or Eid, or Kwanzaa, but he personally celebrates the winter solstice, when somewhere on the other side of the world the sun stands still and then reverses course, heralding the climax of the long Arctic night and the welcome return of daylight. For a man who lives in the elements, it could hardly be otherwise.

Yes, there is a Santa Claus. And I do believe firmly in him. If my beliefs are a bit unconventional, well, then, perhaps so am I, and the strangeness of my beliefs merely attests to their sincerity. I shall wear my gyrfalcon cap out hawking this afternoon as a tribute to Santa Claus and his travels as well as the return of snow to this part of the world. Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.


Stekoa and I had a wonderful hunt this morning, the air thick with fog and fresh snow on the ground. We caught our rabbit, said our prayers, and headed home to spend time with family. A perfect day...

Friday, December 11, 2015

True dat


HT Jessica and Tasha.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Much

A sampling, in no particular order and by no means all-inclusive:


















Happy Thanksgiving to all...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter V


My dear Ticksnar,

I find it necessary to expand on a word I employed in my last letter, the significance of which you may or may not have fully appreciated...that word being xenophobia. From the Greek, it means "fear of the outsider", a concept as relevant today as it was so many centuries ago at the dawn of the city-state. Fear of the outsider and hatred of the outsider have always been inextricably linked. More to the immediate point, in many humans—and I take your patient to be a prime example—fear of those who are different is tied to fear of being different. Hence the formation of "in" and "out" groups, the equation of convention with morality. Often have we, or rather the humans unknowingly under our influence, retarded or reversed the course of justice by appealing to convention, to precedent, to the supposed "good old days", and by capitalising on the fear of change which is necessarily ingrained, to one degree or another, in all mortals—for they can die, will inevitably die, and that is the change their animal selves fear most of all. These twin fears, fear of the outsider and fear of change, are among the most potent weapons available to deviltry.

And fear, I must point out in case you have failed to take notice, is one of the major components of your patient's makeup. The other is a tendency toward categorical thinking and legalism, the belief that all will be well with her soul if she simply follows the rules (as she perceives them). Let her persist in this belief, for it is entirely to our advantage. A word of necessary caution, however: Keep her always fixed on the letter of the law, for the Enemy resides in the spirit of the law, and if she stops to consider that, she will inevitably come more under the Enemy's influence. Make her, therefore, believe the contrary. The surest way to make and keep her ours is to make her fear that failure to hew closely to the letter of the law will separate her from the Enemy her god. Did you suppose it was an accident, merest coincidence, that our cages are so equally full of preachers and pornographers, of tyrants and teetotalers, of missionaries and murderers? Some believe that the law does not matter, others that the law as written is all that matters. (Of course, we have and will always have attorneys-at-law in abundance; these fall into both camps.)

To quote a favourite saying of your patient's, "Sin is sin." Well, I can tell you as a certified expert on the subject: of course sin is sin, and it's all good, useful stuff, too. We can ensnare a human as well with a thousand little hooks through the skin as we can with one big one through the gut, for they find it painful to tear themselves free of those hooks in either case. Your patient's mistake is in thinking that all sin is equal—and this, I assure you as a connoisseur, is emphatically not the case. Let her believe, however, that it is; that a stray thought is as bad as a premeditated deed, that any small transgression is the moral equivalent of the most heinous crime. And especially let her believe this of other people; keep her so busy judging others that she has no time for self-reflection. Most humans have a blind spot in this direction anyway, so it should be a relatively simple matter to keep her from a critical assessment of her own behaviour.

If she does, however, take time to reflect on her own failings, on no account let her deem them as such. Remind her that she is the Enemy's servant, and let her believe that her transgressions are not sins at all, but acts of service to Him. If she should meet with reproof or social disapproval, convince her—this should not be difficult—that disapproval is tantamount to persecution. She will be proud to suffer for her faith, even if the suffering is slight and the cause is not her faith but her manner; meanwhile, you will have ensured that her course of action is unlikely ever to change.

As I've said before to many of your colleagues, the surest road to Hell is the gradual one—and as the humans themselves have noted, good intentions make excellent macadam. (Though of course bad intentions will serve even better.)

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter IV


My dear Ticksnar,

I find, in reviewing our correspondence to date, that while focusing on these interesting questions of sexuality, family relationships, "social justice", etc., etc., that you have neglected certain other aspects of your patient's condition. Allow me to address these briefly, for they are easily dealt with.

You mention, for one, that your patient has developed an obsession with what the humans know as "the end of the world"—but I see no sign that you have followed up on this, which is unfortunate and dare I say negligent. This is a rich field for temptation of which we have taken advantage these many centuries, and which you should not hesitate to exploit as your predecessors have done so successfully. By all means keep this line of thought active in your patient's mind, for it is nearly impossible for the humans to indulge in the loathsome habits of compassion and charity when convinced the end is nigh—for after all, what can it matter? Instead, they become (consciously or not) entirely self-centered in their conviction of Armageddon. This can take either of two forms, both of which are conducive to our cause. In the first instance, they become paralysed by fear, nay, by dread, either of their tribulations in the last days of Earth, or out of uncertainty as to their ultimate fate. (Deliciously ironic, n'est-ce pas?) Alternately, and perhaps even more advantageously for ourselves, humans with this affliction may become smug: convinced they have special knowledge of which their benighted or even willfully deceived brethren are unaware, and utterly convinced of their own salvation, which of course tends toward complacency. If you are even half the devil I believe you to be, you should have no difficulty in seeing your way through either of these scenarios.

You state, for another (though it occurs to me that the two issues may be linked in the mind of your patient), that she has a more highly developed than usual tendency toward xenophobia, manifesting chiefly as a suspicion of and hostility toward Muslims. Assigned as you are to operate within the sphere of Christendom, you may or may not be aware how similar, how indeed allied, are Christianity and Islam. Suffice it to say for now that not only do both seek to serve and to supplicate the Enemy, but that they are both aware that they do so. The Enemy, "The One True God" as the humans are pleased to call that despicable and inscrutable entity, does certainly exist. The failing of the humans, for which of course we can take much of the credit, is in mistaking their own representations of the Enemy for the Enemy Himself—in supposing that their god is The One True God, and that their neighbour's god is a false god, or even (delicious irony again) Our Father Below. If our training schools pay too little attention to comparative religion, it is only partly from the realisation that any sincere religion is potentially harmful to our cause (though always presenting opportunities for subversion), and partly because exploiting religious differences, playing the age-old game of divide and conquer, is widely supposed to be so easy as to require little or no instruction.

Getting back to particulars, many of the Christians and Muslims are themselves aware of their shared historical and theological heritage—but that hasn't prevented them (again, in large part thanks to our own efforts) from reviling and persecuting one another. Take my word for it, my dear Ticksnar, that a sincere practicing Mohammedan (to use an old-fashioned term) is as lost to us as a sincere practicing Christian, or indeed a sincere practicing human of any faith, so long as they are truly attached to the Enemy Himself. If attached to only a particular manifestation, representation, or image of the Enemy, of course, they are ripe for the picking.

Feed your patient's suspicion of The Other, nurture her hostility, let her believe hostility and suspicion ordained by the Enemy her god; above all, never let her reflect on the common humanity of The Other and herself; and you may see suspicion and hostility blossom into hatred. Indeed I fancy you might already be halfway home, if at the sight of a smiling clerk in hijab you can make her think of "sleeper agents" and inevitable holy war. Do not, however, allow yourself to indulge too deeply in the easy pleasures of sectarian misanthropy, for complacency can work against us as easily as against the humans. Keep stirring at the embers, keep picking at the scab of your patient's fears, until the wound is open and the fire full ablaze.

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter III


My dear Ticksnar,

So your patient, despite her misgivings about her daughter's lesbian marriage, and having in fact stayed away from the wedding, is now actually residing with the happy couple. What a complex and delightful scenario this presents! You will of course do everything in your power to encourage her to stay as long as possible, thus perpetuating and exacerbating the attendant frictions.

I understand this arrangement was undertaken for reasons of health—an injury to your patient, was it not? Evan as she convalesces, she must on some level be conscious of hypocrisy—of enjoying the fruits of the daughter and wife's marriage, the hospitality of their home, while at the same time denying and denigrating its legitimacy. Needle her with hypocrisy, Ticksnar, but take care not to let her confront it directly, lest she recognise it for what it is. Instead, encourage her in the belief that her ongoing presence may in some way serve as an antidote to their wickedness, or that she may yet influence the daughter on the question of orientation. She may yet harbour a belief that her daughter's orientation (call it a perversion!) is merely a passing phase, and perhaps even a secret hope that the daughter may be prevailed upon to abandon and divorce the wife—of course the patient would not see it this way—and marry a man, as your patient and her late husband had always planned and assumed. To break up a family in the name of "family values"—that would be a coup indeed, and would certainly justify collaboration with the daughter's and the wife's tempters if it ever looks to be a real possibility—but I rather suspect that particular scenario to be a fool's errand. Feed that hope in your patient, however, for even if it never comes to fruition, damning the daughter, harbouring that hope in secret will naturally be corruptive to the soul of your patient.

While nurturing that hope in secret, on a more conscious and open level let your patient congratulate herself on her tolerance and liberality. Once upon a time (and indeed, in some places yet), a parent in her position would kill the child outright, and she will certainly reflect that her own parents would have entirely disowned such a child. Nothing serves to justify and perpetuate unkindness in the self-righteous than the belief (the guilty belief, in fact) that they are going easy on the supposed transgressor.

Keep these lines of thought always active in the mind of your patient, or pluck at other anxieties, giving her as little opportunity as possible to actually observe the daily life of the happy couple. For if they are, in fact, happy and well-suited to one another, her condemnation may well be eroded by the very normalcy and decency of their lives together.

Your patient may, incidentally, be oblivious to the effects of her conduct, may even be convinced that the daughter and the wife bear her no grudge for her disapprobation. (You will have observed already, I'm sure, how these humans like to think that they can eat their cake and have it too.) If she is, as I suspect, deluded on this score, then fine; a corrosive effect is already at work. If they have in fact forgiven her, however, on no account let her fully realise this and its implications—that the supposed sinners are in fact living out the values to which she merely aspires. The more lip service she pays to spiritual matters, the further she may drift from her spiritual moorings. In that event, your task is simply to be ready with fog and choppy waters, and to do your best to effect a drowning.

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape
 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter II


My dear Ticksnar,

I confess myself somewhat surprised by the question of policy contained in your letter, though of course gratified that you should solicit my advice. Even if your motive is only to ensure your own compliance with regulations (for I assure you that your ambition is well-known to Administration), it is to your credit that you should do so. Hell is, after all, a vast organisation, and it is crucially important that we should co-ordinate our efforts in service of Our Father Below.

The corporate policy of Hell, then, toward homosexuality is the same as that toward sexuality in general: one of interested neutrality. As incorporeal spirits, of course, the unseemly physical aspects of sex must to some extent remain a mystery to us fiends. We must stand always ready, however, to exploit the social, psychological, and of course spiritual opportunities presented by this absurd creation of the Enemy—and this particular manifestation offers such opportunities in even greater abundance than usual.

Our cause is best served in climates of severe repression, when the humans are ready to punish what they regard as deviance with stigmatisation and even death. You, operating out of the American office, will perhaps recall with fondness the well-publicised rape and murder of a trans-sexual individual in Nebraska some years back, and the murder by stoning of a Wyoming boy by his schoolmates. Ah, when children become murderers, it bodes exceedingly well for us, though of course we may have to wait a few decades longer for such a delectable feast to finally fall into our hands.

Almost as good from our point of view is a climate of extreme indulgence, which our philological division has labelled with some success as "liberation". The excesses to be seen in so-called Gay Pride parades, in bath-houses and sex clubs, are but the most obvious examples—and will be of particular use to you in dealing with your patient. Let her think of rampant promiscuity—and this alone—as "the gay lifestyle", and distract her attention from other situations which might otherwise have equal claim to that nebulous title. (The definite article is crucial here; she must always think of "the gay lifestyle" and not "a gay lifestyle", or much of your advantage is lost.)

As you might have perceived, the current social and political trend toward "marriage equality", or the recognition of gay unions, represents something of a crisis for us, as a greater segment of the human population gains the chance to publicly live out a settled, committed existence. (Amusing, is it not, that so many self-describing servants of the Enemy believe that it is a crisis for them?) Obviously, this need not be a complete disaster—any crisis contains a measure of opportunity, and it is not to be supposed that same-sex couples will be more universally successful at marriage than their opposite-sex counterparts, so we can assume (and of course encourage) a certain amount of infidelity, domestic abuse, and the like.

Still, if marriage equality becomes widely accepted in the law and in the public esteem, our harvest will necessarily be lessened, and we will look back with fondness on those times past when "closeted" gays took spouses of the opposite sex as social cover, deceiving their closest associates as to their true identities—or better yet, when they resorted to "conventional" promiscuity in an attempt to deceive themselves as to their true natures. For the Enemy, having unaccountably created sexuality, wants the humans to be faithful to Him, to one another, and to themselves; whereas we obviously want them to be true to no one and to nothing at all.

Encourage your patient's homophobia (if such it be) and opposition to marriage equality. If her daughter intends to enter into a spiritual marriage in advance of the law, let the patient believe in marriage only as defined by the government. If the law should change and same-sex marriages be officially recognised, let her say that state and society have betrayed their principles, and continue to withhold her support from her offspring. She may never notice that she has changed her position—in her mind she has remained steadfast, for so you will whisper in her ear at every opportunity.

A bonus may accrue to this course of action. By the accounts which have reached me, the daughter is herself somewhat inclined toward traditional religious views. If your patient and her associates continue vocal in their disapproval, if the daughter and her wife find judgment and rejection rather than fellowship in the Church, might your colleagues in temptation not use this as a wedge to separate them as well from the Enemy?

Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter I


My dear Ticksnar,

I hope you will not be too much offended if I take an active interest in your current assignment, and offer my thoughts as to its management and resolution. It is not that I am in any way dissatisfied with my administrative function, but having been away from active service as a tempter for well over a century now, it is impossible to deny a sort of nostalgia for fieldwork, for the craft involved, for the (dare I say it?) intimacy of living with and endeavouring to ensnare a single mortal soul. Besides which, the reports which have reached me have excited my interest in what promises to be both a challenging and rewarding case.

So, if I have been correctly informed, your patient's daughter intends to be married—and to another woman. It is as well, then, that your patient is of a very conventional religious type—so much so that she may actually boycott her (the daughter's) wedding and refuse to acknowledge her (the fiancée's) children as relations.

"She", "her"—dear me, between your patient the mother, the daughter, and the prospective wife, we are likely to run into pronoun trouble if we're not careful. And I wonder, parenthetically, if this might not offer some small insight into her (your patient's) objections to the union. Never underestimate, my young devil, the humans' simplicity of mind and their resulting desire for simplicity in all things. Humans often conflate conventional piety of the rule-following sort for spiritual maturity, and I wonder if they do not often mistake their habitual classifications, born of laziness of thought, for piety. Encourage this tendency.

Encourage, also, your patient's likely feelings of embarrassment concerning her daughter's orientation—for a human who self-identifies as conventionally pious naturally surrounds him- or herself with other conventionally pious humans, with their own resistance to change, notably resistance to change their own habitual patterns of thought. Confusion, distaste, judgment, embarrassment, and shame—all these, besides being enjoyable to watch, will distract her from examining her own conscience and will therefore serve to separate her from the daughter and her intended.

Let me know how you get on, and fill me in more completely on your patient and her mindset, with regard to this as well as other matters. Be as thorough as possible, for even with my other duties I shall find ample time to peruse your missives, and as they say, the devil really is in the details. I look forward to your reports with avidity.

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: introduction

And now for something completely different...


Some letters of a very interesting nature have come to my attention, reminiscent of and apparently by the same writer as a much longer series of letters published during the Second World War by an English academician, novelist, and philosopher. That gentleman, a Mr. Lewis, wrote at the time, "I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands." Having now been placed in a similar position, I can only say that I now understand both his determination to share the intelligence that has come to light and his circumspection concerning sources. I shall therefore confine my commentary to what the letters are, keeping mum about how I came by them.

The letters, then, purport to be from a senior administrative devil by the name of Screwtape to a younger (and apparently related) subordinate—not the Wormwood of Lewis' Screwtape letters, who it is implied met his end following the failure of his mission in England, but a certain Ticksnar. This Ticksnar, it would appear, is assigned to be the tempter of an American woman. Like Wormwood's "patient", we know about her only what we can glean from Screwtape's letters, for we have only his half of the correspondence, but the woman is apparently of middle age, widowed, and a conservative Christian struggling with the revelation that her daughter is gay. No doubt a fair number of people could be thus described, but therein lies the value, perhaps, of these letters, for while they obviously offer insight on this particular woman's spiritual struggles, it is likely that others could benefit from understanding the tactics and strategies employed by her demons; that by generalising from her case, we might all learn something of human nature and how our own natures are used against us—and without benefit of a police caution or (to use the American term) a Miranda warning, for we would be foolish indeed to believe that devils have a sense of fair play.

I will post the letters themselves at intervals of a day or two. But first, one other point, made so well by Mr. Lewis that I will not attempt to paraphrase, but instead quote him directly:

Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle. I have made no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I think it very unlikely that the portraits...are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.


Gargoyle photo shoot courtesy of Carissa, Laura, and the entire staff at Euphoria. Thanks!
 

Turning the corner

Okay, I feel like a real Nebraskan now. Like so many ranchers, I fell on hard times, got behind on my loan, and had to go to the banker to sort things out. Happy to report that the bank is going to work with us, and as of now at least, Jessica and I are not facing imminent homelessness. (It's been touch-and-go all year, which is one reason my blogging has been limited.)

So our Churchillian motto is slowly shifting from "If you're going through hell, keep going" to "Let us move forward into broad sunlit uplands".

Now here's a thought...



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thunderbirds

Okay, so it's been more than a month, but I haven't forgot my promise to post a blanket. This particular choice was inspired by ongoing preparations for the hawking season. (Today's task: build a new hawk box for Stekoa.)


The thunderbirds on this Pendleton have always reminded me of the ones on the Nebraska State Capitol here in Lincoln, although now I see they're nowhere near as similar as I had imagined.


The hawk box, incidentally, is the most technologically advanced one I've done yet, with HD DoubleCorr™ construction, BlackOut Automotive Ventilation™, and X-Ray Vision Flooring Technology™. (That is to say, I've upgraded from a standard cardboard moving box to a double-thickness one from Home Depot, ventilation is provided by side dashboard vents from a 2009 Subaru WRX, and I'm trying to protect the cardboard floor with old X-ray film obtained from a vet.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Long live the Queen

HM Queen Elizabeth II is now Britain's longest-reigning monarch, having surpassed Queen Victoria.

Linking to a previous post featuring the Hudson's Bay coronation blanket. I'll try to do a new blanket post soon; it's been a while.

Monday, September 7, 2015

"The Collection of Marie Claire"

Disturbing...haunting...and beautiful.



Monday, August 17, 2015

Takagari


The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has digitized the Ehon taka kagami, a collection of hawking prints produced in the 1860s by Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyôsai. (Big tip of the hat to Patrick Burns at Terrierman's Daily Dose for bringing this to my attention.) This is a fantastic source of information for any falconer interested in the history and geographic/cultural variation in the sport, and conveys a sense of what a formal, elaborate approach characterized (and to some extent still does) Japanese falconry. Bill Jameson, author of The Hawking of Japan, noted that "in one book of the Meiji period there are illustrated seventy different ways of tying a leash to the screen perch, the method varying with the holiday or occasion, the visiting nobles present, and the species of hawk." The book referenced is almost certainly the Ehon taka kagami.




These are not static field-guide-style images; clearly the man had spent some time observing hawks, for the postures are recognizable and authentic. Naturally, the illustrations are of otaka, or northern goshawks, the preeminent birds of Japanese falconry. For centuries, passage goshawks (and occasionally haggards) were imported from mainland Asia, as the mainland subspecies were larger than the native gos, and often paler as well—then as now, white goshawks were status symbols. One of the roles of the daimyo (feudal lords) of the islands of Tsushima was to ensure a steady supply of goshawks from nearby Korea.

Both of the falconers in the picture below are carrying the buchi, a branch of wisteria (occasionally willow or plum) that is frayed on one end and used as a brush to clean the hawk's beak and feet. The end opposite the brush is often sharpened for putting disarranged feathers in order. The buchi has its origins in feudal law—commoners, even those hired as professional falconers by the daimyo, were not supposed to touch hawks—but is still used by some traditionalists who find nervous accipiters more accepting of it than of the human hand.


Other equipment depicted includes the relatively light Japanese hawking glove; the ikebukuro or live-lure bag with its bamboo toggles for attaching to the falconer's belt; the ôo or silken leash; and of course the hoko or screen perch.


Scenes from the field make an appearance as well, including the use of a live lure to recover a hawk as well as flights at quarry. Several of the illustrations include dogs, reflecting the longstanding alliance between dogs and hawks in Japan, although the Japanese hunting breeds such as the shiba-inu are far less specialized than those originating in the West (pointers, spaniels, retrievers, etc.).



Another scene from the field: the falconer, with buchi stuck into his belt and kuchiekago or wicker food-basket slung against his hip, feeds his hawk—not on the fist as in the West, but from the right hand, possibly using an egôshi or tidbit-box—while a companion waits patiently with several head of game tied to a stick, and the dog sniffs the ground for scraps.


View the whole thing.