Incontinent Screaming

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European Red Deer Cervus elaphus

I have a confession to make.

On the recent sojourn down to Austin to visit some friends, I left a couple of days early and planned to stop in a small town well south of Fort Wort. I wanted to take in a couple of the area attractions—the Dinosaur Valley State Park where you can see actual theropod and sauropod footprints embedded in the limestone and the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center where you can drive through 1800 acres and get up close and personal with fauna that don’t really belong there.

(You can see images of Glen Rose and the Dinosaur Valley State Park here. They are not really part of the confession.)

Ok, back to the story.

I arrived early at Fossil Rim—it wasn’t going to be busy on a weekday off-season, but I still wanted to be the first in and take my time going through the site. It’s a drive-through wildlife center. You get to drive with your windows down and see animals from around the world making their incongruous home in the northern part of Texas Hill Country. The people who run the place—the science side biologists and animal behaviorists—are famous for their work with rhinos and cheetahs in preserving the species and diversifying the bloodlines. The people handling the visitors are just ok, they seemed befuddled a bit at times, but thankfully once you pay your money and drive in through the first gate you don’t see many people at all.

You do have to listen to a long litany of things you can’t do before being allowed to proceed. It’s all common sense, but people generally are stupid and the good folk at the center don’t want to be constantly removing lifeless bodies from the horns and antlers of bothered animals. You can have your windows down, though there may be times you want to quickly raise them. You may not, however, under any circumstances, open your door, much less get out. Even if the ostrich has just snatched and made off with your favorite gimme cap, the one Uncle Rupert bought for you in Branson, Missouri and features a besequined image of Dolly Parton’s glandular amplitude on it. You start chasing that ostrich and you’re likely to get blindsided and impaled by a pissed off giant antelope of some sort.

About halfway through my drive I came up to a largish herd of Grant’s Zebras. There are no shortage of signs warning you not to feed the zebras as they tend to be a bit aggressive and have been known to bite the hand that feeds them. I was glad they were on the right side of my car as I was able to have a bit of protection. I rolled down the window on that side and was taking some shots of some individuals in the herd just a short distance away. I put the cam down on a little ledge on the passenger side that I made for when I’m on the road and turned back to the steering wheel to drive on to the next area.

I screamed like a little girl.

It changed mid-scream to a lower octave…I really bellowed in fear.

The European Red Deer pictured at the top of this post had silently come up to the driver side window. I had not heard a single sound, it was a stealthy approach. He had his face right inside the car, as far as his antlers would allow his snout and face in. Not a sound. No clicking of antlers on metal. His face filled my driver’s side space.

I screamed.

He didn’t even flinch.

It was like, “WTF man, I just want some food dude…shut up!”

He turned to leave, but not before giving me that look, “Whatev, bitch.”

My friend Deven, whose online avatar name is Tequila and Donuts, thinks I should do a video recreation of the screaming event for your enjoyment. No.

That’s it. The confession. I admit to nearly peeing my pants.

 

Now, here follows some images of a few of the other denizens of the wildlife park:

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Southern White Rhino Ceratotherium simum simum

Yeah, that looks like an impaling horn alright. Make sure you indulge me and look at the details in a larger sized image found here. In the original size image at nearly 4,000 pixels wide, you can see the threads of keratin on his long horn. It is a large image, found here. God, I love this lens. It’s the estimable Nikkor pro AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED. It sure makes me look like a photographer.

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Large and Original.

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Grant’s Zebras Equus brutally

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Reticulated or Somali Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata

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Ostrich Struthio camelus
Large version for feather details.

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Emu Dromiceius novæhollandiæ
Large size to view the evil feathered dinosaur eyes.

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Fallow Deer Dama dama

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White-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus texanus

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White-tailed buck

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European Red Deer Cervus elaphus

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Roan Hippotragus equinus

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Black Buck Antilope cervicapra

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Blue Wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus

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Gemsbok Oryx gazella

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Mountain Bongo Tragelaphus eurycerus


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Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus

Polygamy (of sorts)

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Hey! what’s that noise?

[NB: This was originally posted some six years ago on the sister site of Salon.com, a blogging venue no longer in the ether called Open Salon. This was when we lived at our previous abode.]

A knock on the door interrupted some busywork at my desk. I was paying bills, clearing my desk of once necessary detritus after all the Memorial Day family reunion duties. I found a couple of Netflix envelopes, but only one DVD. I burned the one available, but dared not enter the beautiful daughter’s room, the archaeological strata too daunting. I left a sticky note on her door.

We have a doorbell, an illuminated one, it’s not easy to miss. A knock usually means that someone wants to make a personal connection, offering something I can’t live without. I keep the blinds raised a bit so Popper can yell kitty expletives and throw gang signs to passing dogs. I bent over and saw black tennis shoes and bare ankles—the lower end of a typical uniform from a delivery person.

We have a lot of commerce coming and going out the door. I send images in sturdy envelopes to clients, I get supplies and occasional grownup toys so it’s not surprising to get an interruption. Nor is it unusual that I haven’t a clue what is arriving—every package is a surprise!

The FedEx guy needed a signature. Normally I hear a thud and rebound as the boxes are tossed onto the concrete porch. “I wonder what could be in there that could be so light and from overseas.” His comment caught me off-guard. He was snooping a bit, but not too successfully. The small box  had a label that said Made in Thailand, but the shipping address was from Kansas City, albeit from Belgium Avenue. Should I open it so he could have his curiosity sated? No, it was “Thanks, have a nice day—stay cool.”

It was one of those boxes that I had no clue about. With some help from Popper, I got it opened and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve recreated the sequence, sort of, below.

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It’s not food, not interested.

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Hmm…actually, that does look interesting.

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Nice package…we’re both wondering what’s inside.

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Oh! Oh, that will look so good on me!

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What. Do. You. Mean It’s. Not. For. Me?

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Hmmmpff! I’ll take care of her later.

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Don’t even look at me.

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Like a tribal chieftain, I’ve taken on an additional partner late in my life. It hasn’t seemed to upset the household dynamic too much. You may be aware that calicos are almost always female, and that they’re stubborn and usually monogamous. They pick a partner and remain a one-person cat. They don’t mind other people, especially with regard to food, but they let their preferences for companionship known. With the arrival of the heat in Hades/Dallas and the AC running most of the time, she makes sure that the heat transfer from my body to hers occurs all night long as she plasters herself to my side. It’s one of the services she expects from me in return for gracing us with her presence I suppose.

Oh, the gift.

It’s really, as you’ve guessed, for the true love of my life, young Popper notwithstanding. The bride is really fussy about presents, not that she’s not appreciative, but she doesn’t like the fuss. She’d prefer to go out and get what she wants herownself. It’s not that she doesn’t always like my stuff—which actually happens often enough—she’d rather skip the middleman.

But this is one of those times that I can’t let that laissez faire attitude trump what ought to be done.

We just celebrated our 30th anniversary this past May 23. It’s more than half my time on the planet, and certainly the best part of my life. My bride of 30 years is the best person I know and that by itself shows you how lucky I am, but it’s much more than that of course. More even than her loving me all these years—the vows in sickness and in health, the honor and support, all those things we said in 1981 that were not term- or time-limited—she has been the best person I could have ever wished for in sharing our lives together. We hope for many more.

The thirtieth anniversary is usually commemorated by pearls. I was happy to find something I liked from a vendor of Worldstock Fair Trade, made by artisans in third world countries. I hope she likes it too.

[And she did! No hand me downs for dear Popper.]

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Wake me when you bring the catnip. You owe me.

Thank you dear for the love, for the years past and for those to come. I love you. You’ve always been the best thing in my life. xoxo

(I love you too Popper.)

Sehnsucht

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This is one of my favorite photographs ever. Not just because of whatever merit it may have in composition or execution, but for what it represents. To me it is art—and I truly don’t mind if you disagree or think it’s banal. I think it’s as close a photograph I have that looks like a painting straight out of the camera. In fact, it is more than art for me, it is my youth, and a metaphor for longing.

The shot is a reflection of a La Jolla sunset not far from where I grew up on the coast north of San Diego. The window was part of a cabana next to a shuffleboard court in an otherwise idyllic setting. Look closer at the lower right hand corner of the window and you can see the reflection of a man in a hat walking along the cliffside path. The park is here in this Google map.

The image is from a time when my passion for photography was beginning, probably around 1968 or ’69 and long before many who would read this were even the idea of parents that are now my age or older. I was about 16 then, and happy enough to be in that time and place without really knowing how good it was.

It does take me back. I can’t count the hours I spent looking out to the horizon. There’s something about the inexorable presence of the ocean that makes it difficult to describe to those that haven’t spent years on the shore. If you look a little west by northwest, there really isn’t anything except the vast reach of the ocean between you and Japan. It’s as if you’re on a spaceship, with only that fragile metal skin that prevents your doom. I took a lot of sunset photographs. So many that I eventually burned a small hole in the fabric screen shutter in the camera. I got it repaired, and went right back to taking photos of sunsets.

But it’s true we can never go back. I don’t really want to actually, unless that miracle included going back in time with what’s in my head now. Even if I wanted to migrate back westward, it’s just not feasible now with the outrageous cost of living and overpopulation. You have to be a doctor or lawyer to live within 20 miles of the coast. My mom was worried to death in the early 60s at the prospect of coming up with a $125 a month mortgage payment for a $12,000 house that was three blocks from the beach. (My miracle time travel back to that age would include buying up lots and lots of real estate.)

I’ve been in Dallas now for nearly 30 years. I still don’t like it. It’s ok, but I’ve always had the impression that Dallas tries to present itself as something it’s not. And it’s not San Diego, which is ok. There are wonderful people here and I have a lovely life with an incomparable family.

[Note: We are now, since 4 years ago, in the mountains of Colorado on the Western Slope at some 8,000 feet above sea level.]

But back in the day I would go surfing or bodysurfing almost every day after school or after work. I could see the mountains on a clear day from my patio. There is no topography in Dallas and the nine-month long summers are brutal. That compromise however, giving up a semi-arid and temperate paradise, has given me more than I lost in the bargain. Some of you have seen this picture of my bride. The image doesn’t show all I’ve gained—it’s a gateway image; it represents just a small portion of what my good fortune entails and has been in our marriage of [now 35] years.

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A note on the first image and camera: The Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR was a gift from my brother, purchased at a PX in Vietnam while he was serving there as an army grunt. The image was shot on 35mm Kodachrome 200. The slide was scanned with an Epson photo scanner as a 600 dpi TIFF which resulted in an image rendition of 5100 x 7779 pixels at 227 MB in size. You’re seeing a much reduced size image converted to .jpg here. Otherwise your web page might never load.

The image above of my bride was taken with a Nikon D300 with a 50mm lens at f/1.8 and 1/250 second aperture priority in RAW format. Original image is 2852 x 4303 pixels at 35 MB in size.

The title is a reference to an elegant German word that means more than mere nostalgia. The sense of the word is imbued with yearning, a longing for something lost, or not yet found. I read the word for the first time many years ago in the autobiography of C. S. Lewis Surprised by Joy. He was describing his conversion experience and was overcome suddenly by an intense longing while reading an epic verse retelling of the Wagnerian Opera—The Ring of the Niblung. It was a two volume edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham. In the second volume, titled Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods he came across the following image, and was struck with an overwhelming sense of sehnsucht.

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I have that two volume set. It’s a beautiful work of art. I use the word occasionally in a secular way, probably the way it was intended. But I understand what Lewis meant.

 

 

Note: This was originally published in September 2008 at Open Salon in the early days of that artistic experiment. Sadly, Open Salon has vanished as a presence on the web, though bits of it still linger in searchable web archives..

Searching for Omar

Join me in a journey to the past—a hunt to solve some family mysteries.

Lough Erne.jpgLough Erne looking east from its western edge near where it changes to the River Erne. Some of you may know what a rare thing it is to have such beautiful weather in northwest Ireland. It seemed an existential metaphor, adding to the mystery of discovery.

 

(Caveat lector: This is a long post with many images and of course is mainly for the benefit of family and friends.)

It’s a complicated story that I found the Irish relatives so late in my life. I love my late father, but he was a bit of a scoundrel and my prodigal return to Eire was due in part to his life-long predisposition for dissembling. But that’s a story for another time.

He emigrated to the States from Ireland in 1951. And of his seven siblings, only Aunt Carmel now remains. Emigration can rip extended families apart; it can dim collective memories and render mute the narrative songs that span generations. Happily, there is still a large contingent of Dublin cousins who, along with my aunt, welcomed us with open arms and we quickly set about mending the family web.

Before leaving for the reunion we had already decided that we would take a side trip to Northern Ireland to track down another part of my family history. But it was the non-Irish side of the family, my English grandparents on my mother’s side, who had retired from London to an area near Belleek in County Fermanagh soon after World War II.

And we had clues! My mother had given me several small photo albums over the years. It was the style of the times to have these small albums as photography hobbyists were ubiquitous in the time between the wars. Maybe the cryptic hints in one of these albums would be enough to help us find that part of the family history. One possible tip in the album was the name Magheramenagh, but we had no idea what that meant. We found a map in a Dublin bookstore, and set out without a time table, which was just fine—we figured on just going to see what could be found.

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More clues.jpgFrom the top: My grandfather’s small photo album from 1948; inside the front cover; and a picture of the retirement cottage “Omar” with “A view from the lounge.” (Magheramenagh is pronounced Mah’-hera-me’-nah.)

My grandfather’s name was Oscar Marvyn Reed. He went by the self styled near-acronym Omar—and Omar was the name he gave to their little retirement cottage.

So a few days after all the meet and greets of long lost cousins, we rented a car and three of us set out from our cousin’s house in southwest Dublin—our two older kids decided to hang out in town with their first cousins twice removed.

The map was an ordinance survey map—similar to the USGS topo maps here in the States—and had quite a bit of detail. The clues in the photobook took us northwest, to the western edge of Ulster.

The map.jpgAnd there on the map was that lyrical name Magheramenagh and another clue—it was a castle “(in ruins).” You can find it at 97.7 x 59.2. The cottage Omar must be nearby.

There is a larger rendition of the map found here.

We rolled into Belleek and the first logical stop was the Visitors’ Centre. There we found Michelle. We showed her the album and explained our quest. It’s a sleeply little town and slow moving. The area is a mecca for salmon fishing and Belleek is world famous for the ezquisite and beautiful Parian China still hand-crafted by local artisans. Its lacework and paper thin brilliantly translucent designs are beautiful.

Michelle was excited on our behalf, but could not recognize any of the pictures. She directed us to the nearby hotel where we booked to spend the night. Meanwhile, she said she would make some inquiries on our behalf. Shortly after settling in and trying to decide what to do next, she appeared and told us that her parents would be happy to help us and act as our guides.

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Our guides.jpgMichele at the visitors’ centre and her parents, Vincent and Rosemary.

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Then and now; the pottery works on the River Erne in Belleek in 1948 and at present.

Michele’s parents, Vincent and Rosemary, picked us up from the hotel and first showed us the Castle Magheramenagh. They dropped us off to explore the grounds and went off to arrange the rest of our discovery. They knew of my grandfather’s cottage, though it now had a different name, and knew the current occupants.

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Erne View.jpgFrom the top: It was an impressive residence in 1897; the castle wall in ruins—the arched gate, now filled in, was the entrance and exit for horse-drawn carriages; our entry point, through a caretaker’s cottage that was built into the wall; and pictures of the ruins showing a brilliant day beyond.

Vincent and Rosemary gathered us up and said the current owners would be delighted to meet us.

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We were getting close. A tiny unused cottage marks the corner of the drive to the cottage Omar. As it turns out, Helen and Frank O’Shea lived in that abandoned cottage before buying the Omar from my grandmother a year after my grandather’s death in 1963.

A final look at

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Grandparents.jpgFrom the top: We found it! Thanks to Vincent and Rosemary. Omar is now known as Erne View; Helen and Frank; the hearth now; and Omar and Kathleen next to that same hearth.

They were delightful. We spent a lovely hour with Helen and Frank and then came the gifts. Helen disappeared for a moment and then came bearing two treasures found: a framed photograph of my aunt Joan left in the attic and a drawing of the cottage Omar my mother had made as a young woman that was then made into a Christmas card.

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We weren’t done; we had a further surprise. Vincent asked a question that I had not even considered. He heard that my grandfather had died in Belleek which then led to my grandmother selling and then returning to her family in England. “Was your grandfather Catholic or Church of Ireland?” He was not Catholic I replied. “Well, I may know where he’s buried. Let’s go find out.”

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OMAR (1).jpgFrom the top: The Church of Ireland chapel in Slawin parish, just across the Lough from Omar; my grandfather’s grave; the headstone reads OMAR In loving memory of Oscar Marvyn Reed who died 22nd June 1962 Aged 75 years.

OMAR.jpgOmar in 1953 next to the River Erne in Belleek

I offer again my sincere thanks to Michelle McCauley, Vincent and Rosemary McCauley and to Helen and Frank O’Shea.

If you made it this far—congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the journey with me and to the family mystery solved through help from new friends lovingly offered.

Landscapes

Well, plus a couple of non-landscapes.

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To All the Birds I’ve Loved…

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Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala

A post previously put up in October of 2008 on Open Salon.

 

Caveat lector
This is a long post of mostly photographs with some notes and comments along the way.

I’m not a terrific bird photographer, it wouldn’t take you long to find others who are spectacular at this craft. I’m an ok bird photographer. But I love birds.

It is, however, extraordinarily difficult to photograph birds, and I’ve given a couple of examples below. I think in part it’s because they seem to move about in a different sense of time than we do. That is understandable somewhat when you consider how short their lives are compared to how we occupy our own time.

There are many things, really, that don’t match up with our sense of time. I remember being enthralled with images and presentations that skewed that sense for me. Movies like Koyaanisqatsi, or in some of Spielberg’s large scale backdrops that show dark clouds moving rapidly in the background while normal time sequences go on in the foreground. And consider this: Most of us think of the glass in our windows, indeed it’s true for any glass, as a solid. It’s not. Glass is a liquid; it just operates in a different time scale than what we can perceive. That window pane will be slightly thicker at the bottom in a generation or two because even glass in it’s own slow way is subject to the laws of gravity.

So birds move in a way that is on the other end of that spectrum from glass. Their movements are fast in a manner required to preserve their short lives for as long as possible. Which results, at least for me in my meager talents, in an exponentially greater number of shots that are filled with blurry lines than the ones that are merely decent.

The little gem at the top, the Gray-headed Kingfisher is one that demonstrates that spread of success (or failure). I have hundreds of him, and a half-dozen that I like. He’s small, only about 6 inches from tip of bill to end of tail, but what a handsome fellow. He knows I’m there and there is bright intelligence in that eye as he assesses the threat.

Now for some more. I hope you enjoy the compendium. (It really does represent a fraction of total shots to get these—and there are a couple of repeats from previous posts of mine—the Rainbow Lorikeet and Flamingos have been part of some previous blogs.)

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Double Wattled Cassowary Casuarius casuarius

Even with a fast lens—taken wide open at f/1.8—this guy was difficult to capture. It didn’t help that he was in a cloistered area surrounded by tall bamboo and the light was not optimal. The shallow depth of field, necessitated by the light, means that only part of his beak and the “casque”—the keratin extension of his bill on top of his head—were in focus. You can see below, he proves my point about the difficulty of photographing birds.

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Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja 

This beauty is a very large bird. It’s extraordinary that his habitat means that he has to maneuver between the trees in a rain forest as he seeks his usual tree-dwelling prey; monkeys, coatis and sloths. His wingspan is enormous, as you can see in in this not very good shot from this set of photos of mine which makes his agility all the more amazing. Note also, in one of the shots above how large his talons are. There is no measurement of scale in the shot, but trust me, those claws and talons are enormous. The talons are about 5 inches/13 cm long—longer even than a Grizzly Bear’s.

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King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa

This could be a good ad for Visine™—maybe not. This photo demonstrates a curious phenomena. All of these birds are in enclosed spaces, many behind some sort of screen or fence. If you use a shallow depth of field, and just focus on your subject you can minimize the fence or barrier and still come out with an ok shot. (And you have a good lens—this shot used the estimable Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR with a 1.7x teleconverter resulting in this being at 340mm, f/4.8, 1/60 second. I used a monopod too to stabilize the cam and lens.)

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Guira Cuckoo Guira guira

This cuckoo varietal is a favorite of our own dear tequilaanddonuts. I think she likes him because of his punk hair-do. The Guira is a non-parasitical cuckoo.

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Racket-tailed Roller (with molted, missing rackets) Coracias spatulatus

There’s something about seeing light blue in a bird that is pleasing, and this little gem is a perfect example. His normal habitat is the southern half of Africa. The following shows him with his rackets intact.

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Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Most eagles, as you can see here and above in the Harpy too, seem to me to have a look of being permanently pissed off.

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Victoria Crowned Pigeon Goura victoria

This little lady is huge—one of the largest in the pigeon family and about as big as a healthy sized chicken–about 29 inches/74cm long and almost 6 lbs. I think she’s perfectly named. It’s extraordinarily difficult to get a shot of the Victoria without some of her headdress in blurry motion—she’s a jerky bird. You can see the details in this larger version of a lucky shot.

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Black Swan Cygnus atratus

These are stately beauties, but watch your step. If you get too close you may be chased; they’re very territorial.

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Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Relative to another post of mine, the Saddle-billed Stork is represented in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Phænicophæus curviostris Look at that! Two ligatures in the same word!

Remember back to the 50s and early 60s when it was all the rage to get an alarm clock or wrist watch with pale green radioactive luminescence? The Malkoha has the same kind of bill. The slightest bit of direct sunlight on its bill blows it out in digital photographs—it has that same pale luminescent quality as those watches. I’m not sure though if it glows in the night—probably not.

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White-crested Laughing Thrush Garrulax leucolophus

I love the name of this beauty. I’ve seen him several times, but never heard a peep out of him.

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Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

He just knows he’s special.

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Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus

Unbelievable colors!

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Flamingo.jpg

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Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

all images copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008 · all rights reserved

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Shooting Sarah Palin

It’s just a metaphor

NB: This was originally posted to Open Salon in December of 2009. I was on assignment from Legacy Books to shoot the event in appreciation and thanks for the bookstore hosting a prior book signing and promotion event for my own book, Dallas Iconography. Legacy then was granted permission to use my photos for their own promotional purposes. Some of the text tense isn’t relevant as Legacy closed within a year of the event described. A sad loss for the community, it was an exceptional place.

Also, the title is a common reference for photographers on a gig. I saw no one who wished her harm, and I certainly didn’t either in spite of my personal thoughts about her—which were not part of the work that I was doing on site.


Legacy Books is the largest independent book store in the country. It’s a mecca for the local bibliophiles. A sleek and modern masterpiece of layout and design, the store seems to welcome you to spend your time in guilt-free leisure.

Café Carina is inside the store, a coffee and espresso and sandwich bar with free Wi-Fi and a fully tricked out demonstration kitchen—a demo kitchen!  Legacy brings in a lot of cookbook authors who display their finesse and allows them to prove their books. You can browse, have a sandwich in the cafe and then browse some more. It will take some time—and that’s ok, you have time.

Legacy Book Store9:20 am, about 2 hours before SP arrived.

But it’s not just the store that makes this a wonderful destination, it’s really about the people that work there. When was the last time you went into a major chain big book box and felt like you’d found a long lost friend in one of the attending staff members? From Teri Tanner, the on-site managing partner, to the part time student stocking the shelves, the employees are proud to be on an exceptional team. They make the store an oasis of culture. Ask any employee what they’re currently reading. It won’t be a manga graphic novel—probably.

I was delighted when my publisher said that I was scheduled to have a book signing at the store. I was not disappointed—it was a great experience. I didn’t sell many books, but it was fun to be there. They invited me to come back just before Christmas to do another signing.

as you walk in
That’s my book! The one with the red pegasus on the cover—Dallas Iconography.

* * * * *

This past Friday, December 4, a juggernaut rolled into town. I didn’t see the bus—it was abandoned I think in favor of a string of SUVs. The bus is a myth of sorts anyway since it’s been leaked that Sarah doesn’t actually travel on the bus, instead opting to jet around on a medium sized chartered plane. Her support staff are on the bus. See our own LuluandPhoebe’s exposé on the bus/jet hoax here.

Sarah Palin and her entourage descended upon the cozy comfort of überconservative Collin County. I had asked the folks at Legacy Books at my own signing if they wanted a photographer “on staff” to shoot the event. I offered a no-fee license for them to use the images in print or online media in exchange for attribution. They said yes!

This was not to be a political event for me. Since I was going to be wearing a store badge that would grant me better access than even the print, photo and video journalists that flocked to the store, I had to present a detached professional mien. I came to neither bury Sarah nor praise her—I was a face obscured by a camera—a glass and metal proboscis in khaki pants.

Security was tight. They had the head of the Plano SWAT force in plain clothes standing next to the signing table. There were other ex-military folk at strategic locations. I was scrutinized with hard stares. Luckily, I had an orange ribbon around my neck with an attached name tag. I was in like Flint and beyond the barriers. I was spun around once by one of the security people, a woman who looked like she could beat me up in a nanosecond. “Are you a journalist? You’re going to have to move back on the other side of the chain…oh, sorry, you’re with the store. Never mind.”

It was a fun gig. I didn’t have to subscribe to the running commentary in the crowd waiting to see her, nor refute anything. But I do have some thoughts that have coalesced in the intervening days since the event. These are somewhat random:

  • I don’t think the event was for Sarah to connect with her fans as much as it was for her fans to connect with her. It might be a minor point, but that’s the impression I got. That is, the people were ushered by the table very rapidly. The music was amped up enough to drown out most conversations (the music was themed for the event—Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and the like).
  • “Hi,” “What’s your name?” and “Thanks” seemed to be about the extent of the chitchat from Sarah at the table. And even though the fans were rushed through, they didn’t seem to mind. They got their 15 seconds next to their own personal rock star.
  • Sarah did not respond in any way to the constant refrain of “If you run in 2012, you got my vote.”
  • There was a dais, a platform, outside the front door of the store set up with a microphone with speakers nearby in case Sarah wanted to make some comments to the crowd. She chose not to. In fact, she made no general public statement and was not available at all to any of the journalists present. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions and were kept away from the signing desk. There was one reporter I talked to who was very frustrated. She was from Agence France-Presse working on another story in Colorado. She asked the AFP if she should attend the booksigning here and they gave her a go-ahead. She left with nothing more than interviews with store personnel and some patrons.
  • Sarah signed about 1300 books. 1000 tickets were sold for the event. If you didn’t have a ticket—the cost of which was the same as the book—you couldn’t get in line. The ticket got you a book and a place in line, there wasn’t any additional charge.
  • She usually asked for the name of the patron, which led to some confusion. While she was furiously signing the books handed to her and then pushing the book to another handler, she never wrote anything but her own name. People wanted “their signed copy,” but there was no “their” there. The signed books were shuttled to a pile that the customer had to walk to. This was done to keep the line moving—and it had to move since there was a three hour allotment for those 1000 customers.
  • I saw one black gentleman in line. I don’t remember seeing any other minorities present. It was not a diverse group, the color spectrum was almost completely homogenous.
  • Patrons had to drop all personal items, bags, coats and jackets and anything carried into the store at a bag drop. They were instructed to not take photos and to keep the line moving. Some customers ignored the camera injunction once they got through the line and some distance away on their way out, but even that made the handlers antsy.
  • You could not bring your own copy of Going Rogue to be signed. You could only get one or two books for yourself purchased from the book store.
  • Palin’s mother and father, Chuck and Sally Heath, and her Aunt Katie attended. Todd and 20-month-old Trig were standing in the background for most of the three hours. Trig appeared to want to be elsewhere and was often seen to be struggling to get out of Todd’s arms.
  • Sally Heath, Sarah’s mother, admitted that she had not yet read the book. “No one’s even given me a copy to read on the bus,” she said. (See LuluandPhoebe’s link above for info on the bus hoax.)
  • Sarah was very gracious. She looked everyone in the eye. She smiled at every person that came by. Everyone felt like they had a personal connection to her in the less than 15 seconds allotted to each.
  • She seemed a bit tired, though that did not diminish her high wattage smile. Her eyes were a bit bloodshot. (I was using several very good lenses. You can see a 100% crop— full actual size—here.)
  • Most of the event centered around people having a good time. There were only a few negative comments about “the other side.” Except for the live broadcasting conservative Christian radio talk show host going on and on about “the haters” (libruls), there really was only a couple of instances when people were not concentrating on their love of Sarah.
  • People waited in freezing weather for hours upon hours. Just before Sarah arrived, a group of VIPs were escorted to the head of the line. They did not wait out in the cold. Several reporters were seen talking to the them. I asked one of them later what the criteria was for being a VIP and he mentioned that one gentleman was involved in the Bush Library, about to begin construction on the SMU campus in Dallas. It appears that the VIPs had some sort of connection to the party apparatchik. The person the reporter talked to declined to say who pulled strings for him.
  • Everyone—I mean everyone—when leaving the signing table had a big, big smile on their face. The people at the signing loved Sarah and it was obvious they had a great time.

* * * * *

Okay, I took photos. I’ll present some of them here. Probably more than you want to see, surely more than you need to see. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret what they mean and keep my captions to a minimum. Let me mention again that the regular staff at Legacy are an amazing group of caring and kind people. If you’re anywhere in the DFW area, you should hajj your way over there.

David Lutz, 24, on the right with his father said “She’s just so real. You don’t have to peel back layer after layer to understand what she’s saying.” David was first in line having staked out his position at 10 pm the evening before—13 hours before Sarah showed up.

5:41 am

The kids didn’t want to be there. It was about 28°F too.

Having fun!

Still cold, less grumpy, still sleepy.

One of the few proactive “antis.”

Homemade fleece burkha.

Really, a delightful person. Her giggle reminded me a bit of Tequila and Donuts (yes, I’ve met the Divine Ms D).

Dawn finally came. Still having fun in the freezing temperature.

Some were ready for the wait to be over.

Mike Gallagher, the aforementioned radio talk show host and sometimes substitute for Hannity on Fox, live broadcasting the event and author of Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America.

Written under “For Sarah” is “Dallasteaparty.org”


Wearing most of a fox probably scored some points.

Yay! The doors are open! Oh wait, it’s still two hours before she shows up. You know those Disney rides where the attendants open up a section of the serpentine line to give you the illusion of movement? Actually, it was still freezing cold outside. Everyone was so happy to get warm. They only let in a few hundred at a time though.

This was the “holding area” for people wanting to use the restroom. The signing took place on the second floor and the restrooms were on the first floor. They had bathroom passes (!) so they could get back in line on the top floor.

The scene of the signing. The chain barrier in the foreground right is where the photographers and videographers had to set up. The barrier to your left of the desk is where I was able to stand.

One of SP's fansMargaret Hill, 88 year old former pastor from Lucas, Texas. “I love Sarah Palin, I watch her all the time,” she said. “I think she talks a lot of good sense.”

Hill with Dallas Morning News Metro columnist James Ragland.

Finally, Sarah arrived.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe was wearing her trademark red, a kimono top with long sleeves and enormous open cuffs.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe engaged.

Margaret Hill was among the first to greet Sarah—after the VIP line went through first. No, the VIPs did not have to wait outside in the cold.

Part of the Palin entourage included a photographer. She was using a wide angle lens that included both Sarah and the patron. The customers were given a card with a web address to see the pictures, with the option to purchase and the funds going to SarahPac.com. The card included this caption: “Thanks for going rogue with me today! Let’s stay in touch and stand up for our nation together.”

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXTodd was there, as was Trig.


One mother, Stephanie Shaffer of Midlothian brought her son, pictured above, and placed him on the signing table. Truett, 21 months, was wearing a shirt that read, “Don’t blame me: I can’t vote till 2025.” It was the most time that Sarah spent with any of the patrons and mentioned that their boys should get together and play. That was arranged, and it happened right in front of the photographer’s pen. The cacophony of shutter releases was startling. Shaffer was delighted. “I’ve got butterflies.

Sarah Palin look-alike

Sarah Palin look-alikeA Sarah Palin look-alike, Marilyn Phillips drove up from Glen Rose, about 100 miles southwest of Plano. She brought along her 8-week-old grandson Tripp. She even researched what kind of glasses Sarah wears and bought her own Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki frames. They go for about $400 without the lenses.

BumpitA friend mentioned that she’s probablly using a Bumpit™.

Sarah’s Aunt Katie was there too.

 

* * * * *

 

Thanks to Teri, Kyle, Jeremy, Becky, Robin and all the Legacy Books staff for welcoming me into the store and making me feel like part of the team.

 

 

 

 

all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved

 

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