Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

L.A.


Thursday was Los Angeles. I have a love hate relationship with this city. When I was a baby in the fifties in San Diego we would pile in to the family car and take the never ending trek to Culver City to see my grandfather Israel, who had a furniture shop. This was before the freeway and the trip took seemingly forever. This early grind probably cemented my life long aversion.

A trip to my grandparents did mean silver dollars for me. Which I always spent on candy. Probably threw away a fortune.

My grandmother would make her coveted seven layer rum cake and serve us strong russian tea with lemon and milk. Grandpa was a strong, wiry man, he spoke eight languages fluently and had escaped the russians in World War I. I would watch him in his white undershirt, cutting green gage plums into his mouth with a small paring knife. They both came from Poland, he from Sierpc and she from Wyzkov.

Anyway L.A. was the grandparents, the cousins and the Farmers Market. And great deli. Most people of my persuasion will have their favorite delicatessan. My grandfather liked The Bagel, a place now long gone that once stood across the street from Canter's. Grandpa lived on Fairfax and Whitworth. My Dad liked Langers. Best Rye Bread in town but now gone to seed.

When I was a hipster the place was Canter's, especially in the wee hours, when I eventually yuppified it became Nate and Al's. Zookies was good, especially late. Art's was pretty good in the valley. Jerry's was pretentious, overpriced and you couldn't even get a paper at the Orange County joint. Mom liked Factors or Chasens. Chasens is also now history. Say what you want about the city, Los Angeles does deli very well, on par with Stage and Carnegie, with more of a schmooze and less of a kvetch.

San Diego born, I grew up with Blumer's Delicatessen on 54th and El Cajon and it was heaven on earth. Best salt sticks, kaisers, crescents, bagels, bialys, pickles, whitefish, in the great days it was the pinnacle for me. When Saul left for Fed Mart it was the end of the joint but in its heyday it had no peer.


Yesterday I had a delivery to the Modernism Show in Santa Monica that is being held this weekend. Excellent dealers and merchandise if you are in the area. It is at Barker Hanger. We stopped at the Whole Foods in West Hollywood, populated by some very different creatures and both saw a syringe in the bathroom propped up behind the sink. Scary.

Stopped over at George Stern Fine Arts, the best dealer of my kind of paintings in Los Angeles. Had a gorgeous and gigantic Lorser Feitelson in the window. A class act. After a quick hello Leslie and I went over to the old Diamond Bakery. A block south of Canters on Fairfax, they have been making great breads and pastries for as long as I have been alive at least. We went in for a rye, rugelach and cookies, the same sprinkly ones I ate as a child. Bought a little strudel. Their rugelach are so much better than the commercial stuff you find regularly.



We then went to Canter's, Leslie's favorite and a bastion of yidness for over 80 years. I went for the hot corned beef, Leslie did the reuben. I once had a girlfriend actually dump me because I wouldn't talk to her in the morning(after) at Canters and insisted on reading the paper in front of her. It was her or the paper and the choice was pretty easy. Canters is a little schmutzig and beyond threadbare but the food is still pretty damn good.


I sort of dread Los Angeles. The people are a bit slyer and slicker than I am. Well, hipper and better groomed anyway. Yesterday was older women in too short sundresses and too much makeup with major alterations trying to cheat death. I can remember really feeling like a hayseed when my hippie clan went to the Rainbow Room at the Roxy and stood out like the Jethro Bodine family on their summer vacation. 


Perhaps it's that old enmity of small differences thing again. I know some lovely people in the area and I don't know why I have to demonize them so. What did Woody Allen say, Los Angeles, where turning right on a red light was a cultural event. It's not the angelenos fault that they have so much smog and traffic. And they do have great deli. I just never learned to groove there the same way I do in S.F. or New York. And we San Diegans have always had a chip on our shoulder regarding our larger northern neighbor. The people who don't even include us in their geographic equation when they say SoCal. The people who brought Frank McCourt to the West Coast.


In the final analysis, L.A. is probably no better or worse than any other big city. Has all types, just all a bit more compressed. I am reminded of the great Ron Cobb cartoon of the guy in the car that can go 200mph but is caught in the bumper to bumper traffic jam. As Mike Tyson once so nobly said, "You can win the rat race but you're still a f*cking rat."


I worked for a Beverly Hills outfit once and really never fit in. Very cynical, superficial bunch who were always plotting to do each other in. They decided to fire me at the Christmas party, with a big smile on their collective faces, but I got serious comeuppance a few years down the road... And that my friends is another story.

Small town talk 



music Bobby Charles / Rick Danko
produced by Amos Garrett
engineer by Chris Daniels

Amos Garrett vocals / lead guitar / acoustic guitar
Maria Muldaur vocals
David Wilkie acoustic guitar
Ron Casat keyboards
Brian Pollock bass
Thom Moon drums

recorded Feb.20th, 1995

A.H.

It was one of the oddest coincidences really. I think the episode took place about eight years ago. Could even be 10. Kev is gone now. That's all I know. Good picker, died owing me money. Way it happens some time in this business.

I bought from him for years, mostly when he needed money for his rent or electric bill, frankly sometimes buying things I didn't want or need, just so I could be in line in case he ever got a real score. He was one of those guys who could be in the business for years, yet never could quite catch on to what made a good or tolerably decent painting.  I would have to wade through stacks of canvas clad detritus, he liked late sixties modern and I had an aversion to it like fingernails on a chalkboard. His wife collected swizzle sticks.

I mostly lost money on what I got from him, occasionally broke even but made the mistake of making more than he thought I should one time and that was the end of the equation.  He was real heavy and his heart and knees were bad. Surprised he made it as long as he did.

No one hates you like somebody you've done favors for, it's a truth that trumps even my new law regarding the enmity of small differences. Peeled off five hundred dollar bills so Bill could get his power turned back on for his children and never saw him again or my money. But shit happens and things eventually come around, or so I am told.

Anyway Kevin had been up in Ojai, or Matilija or one of those small divots near Sespe creek and had gone to an estate sale in an old cabin and found a whole passel of photographs from Santa Barbara from a very prominent artist's family.  His name is not important to this tale. He was a descendent of the land grant spanish nobility that once ruled California. (Once Kevin found a bunch of unknown photos of Thomas Eakins that we sold at auction in New York for top dollar.) Anyway I bought the Santa Barbara photographs, which included many early photos of the dons and hidalgos and early homes and adobes.

The next day a handsome older brunette with high cheekbones and a dignified air asked me if I had any work of this artist. I stammered, "I have a whole collection of family photographs." It was totally out of the blue, I swear, the chances of it happening were beyond my calculation. That particular artist, happened to be her great grandfather and she walking in the next day. She was a bit disinterested and even dare I say, nonplussed, "Oh that's Ynez" or "That's Don Ignacio."

I asked her if she had any interest in the collection and she said "No, we have plenty of family photos already." I thought it a shame but what could I do. There were some beautiful old glass plate negatives of ranchos. I ended selling most of it to a photography dealer up around Santa Barbara.

***

Years went by and by chance one day I met the man's husband, who asked if I knew anything about the artist. When I recounted my story he admitted the woman was his wife. Day before yesterday I am unpacking from the show, not wanting to talk to anybody, totally exhausted, when I hear a solid rap at my front door. I saw the tall and erect man, in his nineties I would guess and had to let him in. No telling when he would make it back. His son in law, the man I had met earlier, was in tow. "Would it be possible for him to see the family pictures, he asked?" I of course, assented.

He went through the photos and saw pictures of his mother in law and her family from the turn of the 19th Century. Some of the stuff he couldn't make sense of and I know that I have something else mixed in. I had given up on this stuff.

He was moved by the old photos as was I at his reaction to them. I gave him a photo of his mother in law with a small dog from 1917. He talked to me about growing up in Pasadena in the twenties and the amazing artists that swirled around the place. The Huntington, the cotillions. Incredible really.

I am now sorry I sold the rest of the photographs. We are going to develop the negatives we have and see what else is there. He is going to try to bring his wife over or I will give him the batch to take home. I don't even care about money. Just the odd coincidence that brought these photos to me, quickly followed by the people that should have them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bank Dick



W.C. Fields in his greatest role as A. Pismo Clam.

Abusers, narcissists and dangerous drivers

There is no thrill in life quite like waking up to find that you are alone, driving a 5000 lb. metal steed 70 miles an hour in the middle lanes of the southbound Interstate 5. I got to experience this twice yesterday, the culmination of my long trek. It definitely gave me the shot of adrenalin I needed to stop and get coffee at Whole Foods. I am ashamed but my eyes did shut a couple times. Totally fried after two weeks without a break.

The trip from San Francisco was pretty uneventful. I normally take one of three routes, the 580 to the 5 inland route, the Pacheco Pass variant, or the Lost Hills jog through Paso Robles, the road that claimed James Dean.

Yesterday I decided to take a different alternate return and take the 126  through Santa Paula eastbound. I love the Fillmore, Santa Paula area. It is a lot like Fallbrook but the ranches are bigger and the avocados grow on flat ground. Either they have root rot resistant rootstock or porous ground without the clay we have down here, Fallbrook aguacates tending to grow on steeper slopes. Anyway it is a beautiful area, not despoiled yet by the rich folk that have started to ruin places near bye like Ojai and Montecito.

My new travel plans also allowed me to stop at one of the most hallowed fast food mexican restaurants in this world, Superica in Santa Barbara. Located on Milpas St., Superica has an incredible menu. I had a tri tip taco with fresh tortillas, marinated pork steak and a quesadilla with chorizo. The salsa is a smoky habanero that is just fantastic. I washed the whole thing down with a pulpy aqua de sandia, spanish for watermelon water. Delicious. The line for this place always runs out the door and I try to stop by every time I am in town. If you haven't been there, it is worth the trip. Entrees generally run from $2.50 to $3.50.

It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed seeing the lovely ocean views driving down near Pismo Beach. Was also especially wonderful to come back home to my beautiful wife and cat.

***

The show was tough. For the second week in a row I did almost no business until 10 minutes before the thing shut down, when I consummated two nice transactions. Test me, test me lord. Couldn't make it easy, could we? Puts your writer in the best of moods, especially when I see my cohorts ringing up sales like nobody's business. But all's well that ends well and I did manage to make the whole thing work and also buy some beautiful stock.

***

Speaking of food, did you read about the Laker forward, Derrick Caracter, who was arrested for harassing and abusing a waitress at a New Orleans IHOP? Hey Rookie. You make $473,000.00 this year and you're eating at IHOP? Ever hear of Mother's? It's a New Orleans institution. What'samatter - Waffle House closed? Stuckeys? No wonder they put that weight clause in your contract. And don't push waitresses around either.

***

My favorite cook, Chef Melissa Rossi, made me a wonderful meal at her home up north and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. Leslie always says that she would rather eat Melissa's leftovers than the hautest of the haute cuisines in the world. I agree. We started off with taramasalata or fish roe salad and burratta with crackers. Couldn't stop eating it, almost got full. The Berkeley made burratta is much better than the import I am getting at home. The cream filled center is much more pronounced. This was the best chile relleno I ever tasted, along with divine grilled chicken. I don't even like chile relleno and I loved these stuffed poblanos. The meal was topped off with homemade tres leches cake replete with mango and coconut sauce. Totally deelish. Muy dulce.












***

I read an interesting article by Gregory Rodriguez in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. Rodriguez talks about the schism between white people as being the dominant source of discord today rather than fractiousness with other races. Traditional whitey versus progressive whitey. What I really liked the most about the article is that I was introduced to the concept of the "enmity or narcissism of small differences."

This is a concept first postulated by the British anthropologist Ernest Crawley and then codified by Sigmund Freud in his 1917 work "The Taboo of Virginity." Basically what it says in a nutshell is that people who have minor differences with us are much more of an irritant than those with which we have a major gulf.

Freud moves from the Oedipus and the Castration Complex into the realm of social anthropology with this work. I know that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar but I had never heard about this volume on the narcissist and find it somewhat illuminating.

From Alain De Mijolla and the International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis:

In his article on "The Taboo of Virginity" (1918a) and on the subject of man's "narcissistic rejection" of woman because of his castration complex, Freud isolated for the first time a particular reaction that he later saw as the driving force behind racism. He wrote "the practice of taboos we have described testifies to the existence of a force which opposes love by rejecting women as strange and hostile. Crawley, in language which differs only slightly from the current terminology of psychoanalysis, declares that each individual is separated from the others by a 'taboo of personal isolation,' and that it is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them. It would be tempting to pursue this idea and to derive from this 'narcissism of minor differences' the hostility which in every human relation we see fighting successfully against feelings of fellowship and overpowering the commandment that all men should love one another" (p. 199).


He returned to this idea without naming it in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921c) when discussing hostile sentiments with regard to whatever is strange: "In the undisguised antipathies and aversions which people feel towards strangers with whom they have to do we may recognize the expression of self-love—of narcissism. This self-love works for the preservation of the individual, and behaves as though the occurrence of any divergence from his own particular lines of development involved a criticism of them and a demand for their alteration. We do not know why such sensitiveness should have been directed to just these details of differentiation" (p. 102)


Not until Civilization and its Discontents did Freud give the notion the full meaning that it has today: "It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness. I once discussed the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other—Germans and South Germans, the English and the Scotch, and so on. I gave this phenomenon the name of 'the narcissism of minor differences,' a name which does not do much to explain it. We can now see that it is a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression, by means of which cohesion between the members of the community is made easier. In this respect the Jewish people, scattered everywhere, have rendered most useful services to the civilizations of the countries that have been their hosts" (1930a [1929], p. 114).


After Freud the notion entered psychoanalytic discourse without much further study. Otto Fenichel described it as a stumbling block in identification with the other that is destined to surpass hostile sentiments (1934). The idea is mentioned in other papers to illustrate incomprehension between adults and adolescents or disagreements between psychoanalysts despite their belonging to the same group. Glen O. Gabbard in On Hate in Love Relationships: The Narcissism of Minor Differences Revisited presented the most thorough study of it. Gabbard stresses the experience of disappointment when, in spite of the aspiration for similarity, we find differences in the loved object, and he links this disappointment to preoedipal and oedipal experiences that punctuate the processes of separation and autonomy.


With the exception of this last work, the notion has been used essentially to explain the hate relations that develop between humans or groups of humans that, by all appearances, have much in common.

More on the narcissistic disorder from Sam Vaknin from Buzzle.

***

I read somewhere recently that the goal of the computer industry is to keep us all constantly connected. I react to the email ring on my droid like a drooling pavlovian dog. Had to get off Facebook because it was so time consuming. Like this blog. I flaunt my twenty year vacation from tv but I am in bondage too. Anyway I don't think that the person who postulated that premise was too far off. Our online dithering is on equal footing with the physical realm for many of us, your author notwithstanding. Soon the devices will be implanted into our bodies somehow. We will be reduced to body snatched simulacrums, living in a robotic nether world. Wait, we already are?

The world is connecting up at warp speed. Technology has both toppled empires and given big brother a microscope on all of our personal communications. The unforeseen consequences of this linkage have yet to be envisaged. But it surely doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the next trick will be finding out how to disconnect and cover our tracks quietly and artfully.

My friend, the writer and fitness trainer Roy Cohen, in acknowledgement of the growing enslavement to the "connection," has foregone all electronic devices this month. No phone, blog, email, computer, video game, television, kindle, or any other such contraption will invade his Walden's pond. Hats off to you Roy! Would it be okay if we just run a string between two frozen orange juice cans? Just in case we need to talk...

***

I still don't see how the Wikileaks disclosures are gong to do much besides put people's lives in jeopardy and needlessly expose diplomatic assessments and relationships that are the province and property of the people in our State Department. The idea that opening up a cannon sized hole in our foreign service apparatus for all to view will benefit anybody but the enemies of our country is ludicrous.

***

I have driven by the sign on the I -15 freeway north for several years, the one I post in my banner photo. Why would you call your business "pus"? Shouldn't some vice president have whispered nay in the owner's ear?

***
And finally, look at the Mt. Rushmore masterpiece this talented artist has crafted in Cheez-it. Sacre Bleu!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba has passed away at the age of 84. The indian holy man had millions of devotees around the world and was known for his saying Love all, serve all - help ever, hurt never.

I have never been a follower of gurus, or any religious figures for that matter, but always found Baba quite fascinating.

He had a knack for making objects and holy ash, called vibuthi, appear from well, nowhere. I have seen videos where coins, ashes and watches materialize from the palm of this guru and it's no mean trick, I assure you.

At the young age of 14, after being bitten by a scorpion, Sathyanarayana Raju supposedly regained consciousness and started speaking sanskrit, a language he was not previously familiar with, to his startled parents. His father, thinking him bewitched, tried to beat him with a stick. He then proclaimed that he was the reincarnation of  Sai Baba of Shirdi, an indian saint who had died eight years earlier.

***

I was on an airplane, had to be close to 30 years ago, and struck up a conversation with the tall gentleman sitting next to me in the middle seat. He had been a volleyball player at SDSU and then on the U.S. Olympic team. Now he was running an ashram and school for young children in India for Sai Baba, his spiritual mentor.

With a bit of snark, I asked him if Baba had materialized his watch for him. "Why yes," he stated, "As a matter of fact he did." He took it off and handed it to me. I had a quick look at it, it seemed normal enough. My traveling companion seemed very rational and sober and I have no cause to disbelieve him. Many people and skeptics have tried to explain his deft paranormal ability as parlor tricks and chicanery but when I started examining the specific stories they appeared very hard to debunk. He would ask people to call out the date of their birth and give them that specific minted coin.

The ability to pull money out of thin air is not a trivial affair, what a handy guy to have around if you lived in a city and needed to put money in the parking meter. I could see many instances in which his services would become invaluable.

Of course, there are the normal allegations of sexual abuse and the general nasty occurrences that happen every time that people worship leaders of any religion. Can really screw everybody's head up. Don't know if the abuses did or didn't really take place. But hey, he's only human.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mean Woman Blues

Satyric Telamones

I bought these two exceptional figures at the show during set up. These twin satyrs are plaster over cast stone. They are horned and have goat feet and wings around their lower torso. They measure 42" high. Quite heavy. Great patina. Each seems to have a slightly unique personality. People have been oogling them at my space and I am told that they are sure to have come from the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition. One of the directors of the Maybeck Foundation said that if I mail him pictures he will try to deduce where they originally stood.


Telamones were the male counterparts to the caryatids and guarded the temples in Greece and Rome. They are sentries at the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Agrigento, Sicily. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

From Wiki: Older satyrs were known as sileni, the younger as satyrisci. The hare was the symbol of the shy and timid satyr. Greek spirits known as Calicantsars have a noticeable resemblance to the ancient satyrs; they have goats' ears and the feet of donkeys or goats, are covered with hair, and love women and the dance.
Although they are not mentioned by Homer, in a fragment of Hesiod's works they are called brothers of the mountain nymphs and Kuretes, strongly connected with the cult of Dionysus. In the Dionysus cult, male followers are known as satyrs and female followers as maenads or bacchants.

Satyrs were companions to both Pan and Dionysus. Their chief was Silenus, as recounted in Euripides' Cyclops.

If they do not sell this weekend I look forward to installing them in my gallery. Sort of hope that you get a chance to see them.

I Used to Be A King

Yo

I am on day 11 of my antique grind, a couple more days and I can go home and hopefully take a little break. Money is dribbling in, but unless the wind changes I am afraid that the swag from this trip will be meager. Things have been rolling along pleasantly enough but I probably spent a little too much dough buying stuff, on the assumption that a few more items would turn.

Nice up here in San Francisco, perfect weather so far although the weather reports predict a bit of rain tonight. A string of unremarkable if not bad meals but headed for Creola tonight in San Carlos with Cam and Isak and it never disappoints. Not  counting the amazing meal my friend Melissa made for me of course. Stopped at Tommy's Joint the other night with Dave, (his choice not mine) and he got sick on the brisket. Basically I have been complicit in the normal Bay Area debauchery and cranial damage all week and found myself putt-putting through the freeway maelstrom several times late at night like Mr. Magoo.

The van is starting to give me problems. Took it in a few weeks ago, four quarts down on oil, pretty soon after a change. It's not leaking, or burning oil through the exhaust, so a seal might be fucked up or some other internal doodad and Gary my mechanic thinks I may be looking at real money to fix it. Only 146,000 miles on it which is nothing these days. The plan was to get a little economy car and use this one only for road trips but life may not be willing to cooperate. Like the looks of the Mini Cooper Countryman S but can't afford either it or the premium gas or maybe the new little Nissan Crossover.

I hung out with my old friend K. who I painted with in college. Very talented artist and bright guy who found the blast and got in touch. K. is an audiophile of the highest order and has the finest homebuilt set up I have ever heard, Class D power supply with DEQX converters and yada yada. Stunning sound room.

I was a high end stereo guy in one of my older incarnations but all my equipment is 25 years old and really showing its age. Started out with tubes, went to hand built Classé monoblocks from Quebec, Mod Squad line drive and custom speakers. Everything a bit threadbare at this point. Need new cones, one of the monoblocks isn't functioning, etc. But stereo equipment is far down on my priority list. Only a single guy could build a system like K. A married guy who tried something like that would be skinned alive and left to bake in the desert heat while rabid marsupials feasted on his body parts.

It is interesting when someone from your distant past steps back into your life. He looked like he had gotten older in the past 30 years and I suppose I do as well. Looked taller than I remembered him too. Meeting someone like this gives you an opportunity to sort of chart your own life changes, we decided that neither of us had really changed much as human beings in the interim, something I took a bit of comfort in. Both of us still operating in our own eccentric orbits, on our own singular course of flight.

***

I am going to be having a small potluck party at the gallery on the evening of May 6th. All blog readers and casual lurkers are invited unless you experience severe psychosis, have anger management issues or are just plain weird. RSVP. Come meet the coolest members of the Avocado belt. Bring your own libations. It's not an opportunity to drink all my booze, losers.

That's about all I got from the northern campaign. I do want to thank all of you who wrote the kind notes to me regarding my recent post about my late sister. I really appreciate your thoughts and support.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jr Walker & The All Stars - What Does It Take (1969)

Amie Leah Sommers


My sister, Amie Sommers, died twenty eight years ago today. She was ten years and one day younger than I and robbed of precious life at the age of 16. She and my sister Laurie were in a crash on El Camino Real in Rancho Santa Fe. Laurie survived.

I got the horrible call to come down to Scripps Memorial Hospital at about 10:00 that night. A figure lay on the bed that barely resembled the beautiful girl I knew. She uttered her last words in my presence, that she hurt. The helplessness on my part at my ability to do nothing for her was overwhelming. My family plunged into a despair that you never really can recover from, not entirely anyway. It is hard for me to believe that she would be 43 today, had she lived.

We are all fated to lose everyone we love one day, unless we are lucky enough to go first but to lose a light so young, a light that shined so bright makes it all the more difficult.

Amy was a verbal scorpio like her brother, she wrote very sophisticated poetry and had what is called an old soul. She was into the punk scene and hung out with the band TSOL. I took her to see the Grateful Dead at Irvine, an event she thoroughly enjoyed and loved being her big brother. She was a champion saddlebred rider, even handling the powerful five gaited steeds.

And I think that she loved being my sister. As I loved her. It has been a long time, twenty eight years. I used to feel guilty when I felt that I hadn't thought of her enough. I didn't like the fact that I could begin to forget the loss my family and I had endured. The worst pain I have felt in my life.

One night I had a dream where she touched me somehow, through the cosmos and the vapors. She told me not to worry, that she now existed as a corona or field of energy on some distant planet. I woke up feeling better. Amie is buried at Home of Peace cemetery on Imperial  Avenue. My father wrote the words now emblazoned on her coral colored gravestone. "Roam the heavens in peace, free spirit."

I love you and miss you, Amie.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Man Speaketh

“Language was our secret weapon, and as soon we got language we became a really dangerous species."
Dr. Mark Pagel, University of Reading
There is an interesting article in the New York Times today about a new study that points to southern africa as the birthplace of human language. Dr. Quentin Atkinson, a biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, used mathematical models to trace phonemes, the root consonants, tones and vowels that enable human speech. The study was published in the science journal Nature.

Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa

Human genetic and phenotypic diversity declines with distance from Africa, as predicted by a serial founder effect in which successive population bottlenecks during range expansion progressively reduce diversity, underpinning support for an African origin of modern humans. Recent work suggests that a similar founder effect may operate on human culture and language. Here I show that the number of phonemes used in a global sample of 504 languages is also clinal and fits a serial founder–effect model of expansion from an inferred origin in Africa. This result, which is not explained by more recent demographic history, local language diversity, or statistical non-independence within language families, points to parallel mechanisms shaping genetic and linguistic diversity and supports an African origin of modern human languages.
The farther we hairless apes got from the birthplace of communication, even in Africa itself, the less phonemes we apparently used in our discourse. The clicking sounds made by the Kalahari bushmen have over 100 phonemes while english has 42 and hawaiian a mere 13.

According to the article, languages are difficult to trace back in time, the indo-european language tree which includes english and the romantic languages reaches back a mere 9000 years. Dr. Atkinson's research illuminates language origins from about 100,00 years ago.

I wonder what other complexities are left to discover about our earliest ancestors in Africa and their relatives living today? Fascinating study.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'll Take Care Of You

Checking In.

It has been the normal crazy set up. I went across the street to say hello to Domenick, the man that owns the italian delicatessen across the street yesterday. Domenick is a guy that I have actually known for about thirty years but have only really got to know well recently. He used to play ultimate frisbee with a guy I knew named John. Dom still plays frisbee, one of my old passions, and has an 18 hole disc golf course at his house. His deli has both good food and pretty girls behind the counter. A winning combination!

Anyway I get over there yesterday and Dom signals me to sit down. Giussepe is there, the italian wine importer from Palermo by way of Chicago. He refused to take no for an answer and I had to start the day with about eight plastic cups of his wine, starting with a rosé and making our way through the chiantis to the super tuscans.  From the boot to the top of the leg. Nice man with a thick sicilian accent. Wines not bad, especially a reserve full bodied red called intensa.

My productivity was pretty well shot for the afternoon but it was a sacrifice someone had to make and why not me? Always ready for the tough jobs.

***

Interesting but complex study on the evolution of language at Wired Science. Culture apparently has a greater impact than genetics and neurology in the way global languages have evolved.


***

I was talking to a woman, Brenda that I have known for years but not had a whole lot of interaction with, and I asked her if she had ever read my blog, one of my favorite conversation starters. (What a pain in the ass I am.) I could have sworn that she said no but maybe I misunderstood. Anyway I pressed and she sort of gave me last week's blog verbatim. I have uncovered another lurker, another of the 320 people who check in with regularity to give me my 10 thousand views a month. She loves the music, has identical politics and occasionally reads the blast to her boss. I love you lurkers and I love people that read me from out of the blue. Thank you one and all. One day we will have a big blast party somewhere.

***

I think that there are flash problems with the blast and the safari browser. Some mac-heads are getting the spinning wheel and the blog is hanging up. Doesn't seem to be happening in Chrome or Firefox. Don't know what the hell is going on but I may delete all of my links and see if it helps. Please let me know if you are having problems.

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Tomorrow is DNA day and Family Tree DNA, my genetic tester, is having a discount day. I am going to get a Family Finder test which analyzes hundreds of thousands of points on my autosomal DNA to check family connections with the general database to 6 generations. I have previously found only one identical genetic match to my ancestral state E1b1b1c1*-D1 Y DNA. Dr. G. in Seattle - same to 37 markers. My tribe left Somalia for points north about 22,400 years ago. My mitochondrial maternal K group DNA is different, have almost 1500 email addresses from close genetic relatives in the database. I just got this note from FTDNA, guess I don't have to do another cheek scrape:

Due to the large amount of DNA required for this product, we must extract DNA from a previously unused vial. We have an extra vial on hand from your kit and will begin processing your order using this vial.


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A link here to the service.

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For the third time in as many months, an air traffic controller has fallen asleep on the job. This time it happened at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. An incoming plane landed itself the other day while the controller snoozed for 16 minutes.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has long warned that it was dangerous to have controllers alone on shifts and working such grueling hours. They have to leave their post unattended to even go to the bathroom.

Perhaps we should listen to them before a real tragedy occurs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Eyesight To The Blind

Hawkwind

I received a hawk trifecta yesterday. Driving home from work, I noticed our large mother hawk on top of a pine tree on the steep grade going down to Rainbow Creek. I stopped my car in the middle of the road and instantly sprang into action, trying to snap what I could before she had enough of me and flew away.

Earlier in the day I had a call from a neighbor that had seen a grey tree squirrel, bopping on the high tree boughs in the same general vicinity. My friend has lived here for about 45 years and this was a first for him, our native brown ground squirrels being basically terrestrial in nature.

The greys live way up on Palomar Mountain. Evidently this little guy never got the call or got kicked out of the clan.

I add this to my list of animal oneoffs in the region. In my thirty plus around here, I have seen one red fox, one bighorn sheep ram, two golden eagles, and have now heard about an itinerant grey squirrel. Haven't seen a deer in ages either. Many mountain lion, possum, beaver, bobcats, roadrunners and coyotes in the neighborhood. Can't wait until the black bears migrating south discover our luscious avocados. Be some fat ass bears.

At one time, we were prime grizzly country, some of the largest on record having been shot in North County but the ursine species now long decimated. I have read early accounts in Temecula history of bull and bear fights on Sunday afternoons in the era of the dons. An unfortunate bear would usually manage to kill about four bulls in the corrida before he or she succumbed to their injuries. Brutal times. It would take nine men to go up to Palomar Mountain and get a bear, two roping each leg and a coxswain for moral support.

I slowly drove by the hawk nest and for the first time this week the mother was gone. The two red tail chicks were jutting their necks up in the air like little ostriches. Very soft and downy.


I got a bunch of shots, perched on the high canyon road, and stopped to chat with a few neighbors idling by. Driving a bit further I caught the father on the wire, keeping a sharp eye on his children. I have been doing some reading on the subject of hawks, especially red tails and will hopefully have time to add to this post if I get some time in the next two crazy weeks. For those that, like me, can't get enough of these avian predators, a comprehensive look at Buteo jamaicensis on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Trains Running

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin sailed into space fifty years ago today in his Vostok -1 spacecraft.

He was aloft for 108 minutes. When he landed next to a startled woman and young girl he was asked, "Can it be that you have come from outer space?" to which Gagarin replied: "As a matter of fact, I have!"

"Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!"

Rapture

This is a preview of astronomical photographer Tom Lowe's film Rapture set in the southwestern United States. I recognize some of the Utah locations. Hope I get an opportunity to see the finished film. Quite beautiful. As with any Vimeo video, best to watch full screen.


TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Cool Contraptions

Gordon McClelland sent over this neat link on one man's kinetic pvc life forms.

Wing armature for a flying machine - Leonardo Da Vinci

Monday, April 11, 2011

Danko

Hail the odd ducks!

I have a couple antique shows coming up and have been dealing with the logistics of being a traveling salesman for the next couple of weeks. Part of the time I will be living in a hotel somewhere near the San Francisco airport. I have to be nice, charming, enthused and attentive in my dealings with humankind and those that know me know that this can be a chore for me at times. It also entails having sufficient supply of socks, underwear, toiletries, medicine, water and clothing as well as the antique show checklist. Drill, credit card machine, bags, receipt books, reference books, business cards, table covers, labels, tools, light bulbs and various other sundries too numerous to count. It can really suck to forget something you have to have at a show. But I often do. Have to steel yourself mentally for the long days. The pre show checklist is a must.

The immediate need is shirts. I am your basic hawaiian shirt guy. Went from Reyn Spooner to Jhane Barnes to Citron to Avanti. Aging hippies can really dress up their blue jeans with the proper hawaiian shirt. Even make a large paunch look good. All of the aforementioned brands are sort of unavailable to me at this point, the Citron too expensive, Barnes out of business, Spooner losing the brilliance of its early designs. I wore out all of my favorite Avantis when I carried my phone on my belt. Plus either the shirts are shrinking or I am growing and I really don't want to hear about it. XXL land.

We had to drive up to suburbia yesterday to visit the dreaded mall.  I live in the country, in a curvy landscape and the people seem to take on the same general characteristics. I believe that the burbs breeds a race that are a bit more L7. Squaresville. Like an Iowan corn patch. Brains function differently, I do believe. A different species entirely, perhaps.

"Jesus Christ, what is wrong with these people," I yelled, slamming my fist into the steering column for more sparks and theatrics. "Stepford wives on Zanex," my wife drolly intoned.

We had hit Ross and Marshalls, without a lot of success, unless you count the two knits she found for me that I never would have looked at. Ungrateful sod that I am. Before I start my usual kvetching and whining, Sommers boilerplate 127b which states that anybody willing to be married to me is deserving of some order of sainthood. Leslie makes my and our life spin around. With a minimum of complaining and a lot of support. Always.

I stood at the wall behind the registers, with the other forlorn husbands, abandoned by our wives for interminable periods after assuring us that it would only take a second, dear. I was planning on doing a quick hit and run mission on my own but Leslie had agreed to come along and keep me company. I think I might have slightly winced, as most husbands can tell you what happens when we men are hostage for a long day of shopping with the spouses. Would my quick trip get hijacked? Would this become the all day affair? I smiled and assured her that I would both love and welcome her company for the afternoon.

But the trip from 79 through to Winchester can be a killer when you following suburban moms in their minivans that are not of this world and softball boosters driving ten miles under the speed limit and getting utmost satisfaction at controlling the long line of cars in their wake.

We were going to seriously jeopardize the mission but she said that we had to stop at Lowe's to look at front door thresholds, so that the cat would stop scratching the heck out of the carpets. I couldn't figure out  if I could do a gluedown over L-metal and she wanted to know just what kind of bullshit general contractor I ever was. And I gritted back,"The kind that knew how to hire the right men."

We never found what we were looking for, since I didn't really know what it was, needing to do a bit more due diligence first. On to Macy's where we got a few shirts for me that were overpriced and not terribly cool but had at least a little creativity in the design and pattern. Most of what passes for men's fashion is strictly boring, plain vanilla, unless you think that the the Ed Hardy knockoffs with the torn sleeves are actually cool. And I suppose some straight men somewhere wear plaid bermudas still. I just can't do trendy and look myself in the eye.

I almost bought a pair of black converse tennies. But can a 53 year old man still look like a New York street punk in his declining years and have any dignity left?

We left Temecula and snuck back to our avocado bearing homeland, lovely Fallbrook, back to our curvy winding roads and our quirky native population. To the odd ducks.

We ended up making our dinner with minutes to spare, a beer pairing at La Caseta with Stone Brewery. The libations were quite tasty, the food not quite up to the tequila dinner, but a lot of plates to serve and a good try and some of it pretty daring, especially the tapas plate with the homemade mustard and chorizo seco, a dry and very coarse sausage. Also was accompanied by sweet potato fries that were really nice and some spanish cheeses and olives.

All in all a lovely sunday. I hope that your weekend was nice as well.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

War Against Girls

Shell Game

A show of hands. Who thought that the Republican victory in November was all about reducing profligate spending and restoring fiscal sanity to our great nation? How many of my friends on the right told me that they were not concerned about the tea party's hidden conservative and religious agenda? It was all about the economy, right?

Don't feel bad, you weren't alone in being scammed. I smelled the con early and screamed my head off but who the hell listens to me anyway? Watched enough three card monte on the street to know that the marble is never in the cup.

Last night the eleventh hour budget deal was announced, a stop gap measure to keep the American engine running for another week. What were some of the main sticking points, you may ask? Defunding Planned Parenthood and if some accounts are correct, gutting the EPA. Now most of you probably know that Planned Parenthood is already prohibited by the Hyde Amendment from spending federal tax monies on abortion. This is apparently not enough for the Republican Party. They tried to prohibit sending any foreign aid to countries for the purposes of family planning and contraception.

Now the globe faces many challenges but the failure of humans to have more babies on a planet struggling with limited resources is not one of them. A rider was attached to the final stop-gap spending bill that included language preventing the District of Columbia from using tax dollars for abortions.  You could bitch about their constant prattling about state's rights but that only works when the other side is in office and after all, D.C. is only a district.

Republicans also includes language to deny federal money to put in place Obama's year-old health care law. The deal requires that the proposal be voted on by the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it will fall short of the necessary 60 votes. They also included language to allow vouchers to parochial schools in D.C., throwing another symbolic bone to the religious base.

I know for a fact that Planned Parenthood is the only medical stop all year for many of the women that I know. They provide a host of services including contraception, pap smears, cancer screening, mammograms and other vital diagnostic tests. To defund them because they also provide private abortion services, an activity that only comprises 3% of their business,  is ridiculous and misogynist on its face and anti-woman. The practice is still legal, remember. Although maybe not for long with a majority catholic SCOTUS. In any case, the true agenda of the right is unmasked and guess what, it had nothing to do with the economy after all.

This budget imbroglio was supposed to be the easiest one, if everybody plays nice it funds the government through the end of the year. Obama gives up another 7 billion in spending cuts, mostly hitting health and education. In response, the Republicans have proposed a new tax cut for millionaires.

Not everybody on the right is happy. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told reporters that he's a no vote on the final package."We really wanted more advancement on the life issue than was in the final package." Apparently Obama had to agree on an up or down vote in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood in order to push the thing through, a vote that is expected to fail.

Next election, watch the candidates very closely. If their lips are moving, assuredly they are lying.

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Good article by Ronald Brownstein in the National Journal.

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And another by Mike Lux in Huffpo. Thomas E. Mann from the Brookings Institution weighs in. Don't say the A word.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F♣cking HΣll

The f@cking budget talks are hanging up on the issues of abortion and planned parenthood. My f---ing word. Let's just worry about the budget for now.

Edgard Varese - Ionisation

Joseph Zbukvic

Arguably the greatest contemporary watercolorist, Joseph Zbukvic has been giving a demo class this week at the Fallbrook School of the Arts. The last four days have been intermediate students from around the country and globe, all terribly proficient.



Joseph is from Australia. We became friends a year or two ago when he taught here the first time. He is jaw droppingly good, a keen observer, with a serious gift for accurately sensing light values. I have been stopping by everyday and lusting after his demo work. I got the nerve to snap a picture this afternoon.

Zbukvic is quiet and laconic. Humble and self effacing. As I said, he is an intent observer. Tremendously gifted. Has written several books on the medium, all now out of print and very expensive. Mr. Zbukvic has won hundreds of awards. Although I certainly don't know him very well, I would suspect that they have little meaning to him. He has a duty to his craft. That is why a person like Joseph teaches, not for money or acclaim.


His classes sold out instantly with a huge backlog. He likes my gallery and made it a point to suggest that his students stop by. I think that everybody did. They were all very nice. Most competent class I have ever seen at the campus.

Google his images. I hope that you appreciate his talent as much as I do. It is an honor to have him teach in our town.

Sonar


Sonar from Renaud Hallée on Vimeo. Do yourself a favor and watch it full screen. Synesthesia.

Ian & Sylvia - Tomorrow Is A Long Time



Bob Dylan played China for the first time this week. He had to submit his song list for government approval so as not to rile the communist and authoritarian state. The Ministry of Culture decreed in its formal invitation that he would have to "conduct the performance strictly according to the approved program."

Dylan never spit the bit out of his mouth, and supposedly charged through the set with nary a peep except to introduce the band.

From the Los Angeles Times:
At the Beijing concert Wednesday, many Chinese attendees admitted they knew little of Dylan's music or legacy.
"His music is OK. But I don't speak English, so I can't understand what he's singing," Gao Mingwen said outside the stadium. "I hear he's very famous though."
That's all right, Gao. We can seldom understand him here either.

Beijing, China
Workers Gymnasium
April 6, 2011



1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
2. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (Bob on guitar, Donnie on trumpet)
4. Tangled Up In Blue
(Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)
5. Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
6. Simple Twist Of Fate (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel)
8. Love Sick (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
9. Rollin' And Tumblin' (Bob on keyboard)
10. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
11. Highway 61 Revisited
(Bob on center stage on harp then keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
12. Spirit On The Water
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
13. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on lap steel)
(1st encore)
15. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel)
16. All Along The Watchtower (Bob on keyboard then guitar, Donnie on lap steel)

(2nd encore)
17. Forever Young (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel) 



Tie one on with John Boehner

Say what you want about the Speaker of the House, John Boehner's sartorial sense is unrivaled in the House or the Senate. In a world chock full of plain and drab red power ties, the congressman has brought the pastel palette in neck ware to the fore like nobody's business.

The other day I saw a picture of him in a striped double windsor that looked just like Beechnut gum. With his baby blue eyes (usually weeping), a lavender shirt and the appropriate cravat, the Republican from Ohio looks like the world's nattiest used car salesman. And of course, the bearer of a monster tan that would make George Hamilton blush. Equally at home at the 19th hole and the halls of power, a toast to our resplendent Speaker of the House.

Pox on Politicians

Anybody who thinks that either of the two major political parties has some sort of monopoly on virtue has just not been paying attention.

The Republicans fell for Obama's budget gambit. Having signaled that they wanted a 30 billion dollar cut in the budget number as far back as February, they now refuse to take yes for an answer and want to take a further step back to 60 billion. Zeno's Law in action once again. The arrow can never hit the mark, if the target keeps sliding back in an infinite number of half steps.

Boehner is keeping a game face on but the reality is that the House Speaker is having an uncomfortable crucible experience and can't deliver his own promised votes. Serious egg on that face now. If I am Harry Reid, I will now wonder how anybody will ever be able to rely on his word again.

These tea bagger zealots were swept into office on the promise of upsetting the status quo. Now they are behaving like anarchists, trying to turn everything upside down. And I don't really blame them, since the deficit is clearly unsustainable and they are doing what they said they would do if elected.

Yet it is also clear that there is a lack of maturity and political wisdom in their stance. There is talk of the few remaining Republican centrists and moderates forming a coalition with the Dems against some of the more draconian measures being pushed by the freshmen. Triangulation 101.

It is always easier to attack the institution than to govern the institution. The outsiders are inside now and they are supposed to make things work. And they seem to be failing miserable, hence an imminent showdown and shutdown. Because you have to compromise now and then, especially with an evenly divided electorate. Obama is outmaneuvering them like a pro, now threatening to veto the one week band aid that would drastically cut programs.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were weeping crocodile tears for Medicaid and Medicare in 2009, accusing Democrats of endangering senior citizens and putting the programs in jeopardy. The programs they themselves now want to abolish. Priceless. It is getting hard to track all of this stuff without a scorecard.

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I think that there has been a horrible miscalculation on the part of the right in unmasking their anti union agenda so quickly and in-artfully, without a clear mandate to do so. In a time of skyrocketing corporate profits, tax cuts for the upper earners and many businesses moving jobs offshore, the new villains are the middle class, teachers, cops and firemen. I predict that the GOP will pay dearly for this during the next turn of the wheel.

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The Democrats have also been guilty of their fare share of perfidy and moral queasiness. The Secretary of Defense just made a hasty trip to Saudi Arabia to mollify our Sunni oil spigot, who have their keffiyah's in a twist over U.S. support for the recent popular uprisings in the region.  Rightly or wrongly, we do show our allies how fleeting our support for them is in a rather mercurial fashion.

Next I suppose will be Israel. Obama has named Samantha Power a Special Assistant to the President and she runs the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the National Security Council. This potential successor to Ms. Clinton has consistently excoriated Israel in her writings and has in general turned a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism. If she becomes Secretary of State, they will be sleeping with one eye open in Jerusalem.

Certain municipalities have been decimated by the unions and ridiculous pension programs. Taken to the cleaners. Vallejo went bankrupt and 74% of their budget was allocated for paying police and firemen salaries and pensions. Gray Davis was a slave to the Prison Guard Union that seemingly ran the show in California during his tenure. These packages are obviously unsustainable. Voters have themselves to blame for electing spineless politicians who are unwilling or incapable of taking a hard line in negotiations. But I don't see how that calls for doing away with collective bargaining. Bargain. It takes two sides.

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We can't keep spending like we have been and we need  to work together and address our problems and find real solutions. But we won't get there if the right insists on trying to dismember the New Deal and the Great Society while they reward the Goldman's, J.P. Morgan's and other creepy banks and corporations who helped get us into this current mess in the first place.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave

4.5.11

The day couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Clear skies gave way to rolling cloud banks and fog and then finally back to square one again. I had the same problem, stopping and starting and trying to catch my tail and then when I finally managed to grab it, lo and behold I turned inside out. Never could quite get on the ball.

I tried to get control of myself but people kept popping in and knocking me off my stride and I finally just gave up and rode the thing. Not necessarily very artfully. Got a guitar lesson in and bought a couple beautiful paintings and never had time to eat. Worked out.   Met a group of watercolor students, taking an intensive workshop with the great Zbukvic and they traipsed in to the gallery throughout the day. Now I am exhausted from doing nothing.

Actually I have been methodically mowing through my obligations and am pretty well caught up and in a better place than I have been for some time, thanks to some wonderful friends and clients. I am very grateful.

We had an amazing weekend, a brunch Sunday at Rancho Valencia, with my chick pea goat cheese cake and crispy salmon filet. Itty bitty donuts with three dishes of caramel, raspberry and chocolate sauce. Great company. Then to TraceyStanRichardlynnes and on to Ron and Lenas where we reconnected with a bunch of old friends and just had the best old time. Spent several days cleaning up the ranch.

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Got an email from some bigwig outfit that asked if I would be interested in writing about food for them nationally. I told them that I was flattered and would think about it. Asked how they found me and am awaiting their response.

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I post a picture of the scene one afternoon at Leslie's store next door. Corrie and Renee, about to move in to the new pad.

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I finally see little red tailed hawk chicks in the nest and grabbed my first pics this morning, not great, the first of many to come. Not sure how many we got this time, it was three two years ago. I need to borrow or rent a 400mm lens or at least bring my tripod home.

Mind you the nest is very high up in a tree and conditions aren't exactly optimal.