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© Robert Sommers 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Monkey

End of the line and on to the next.

Rays and fog in the redwoods
2018. Best of times, worst of times. Some ecstatic heights and ascents, coupled with a couple horrific plunges into depression and despair.

Lost about a third of my annual antique shows, economic viability always a tough proposition that suddenly got even a little tougher.  Survival was a sketchy proposition at times.

And my health seemed to take a cascading tumble or two. Lost a couple vital players in my movie as well.

But I am still alive, thanks to a handful of great clients, some good luck, providence and charity. And doctors. The percentages of each are your guess. In any case, I am grateful to still be walking around. Never thought I would make it this long frankly. This is all free credits.

Most of all, I have to thank my wife for sticking with me and not losing faith. Even when I did. And I am so thankful for my friends and family. 

My metadata tells me that I turned in over 34,212 photographs from my camera to my hard drive this year. Or as Kip says about a third of its ultimate shelf life. Gads, I hope not.

That is a lot of picture taking. My god, no wonder my business sucks, spending all my damn time taking pictures. Or maybe it was a refuge that kept me semi sane during the long decline, I don't know.

At least I can chart my year and voyages with my pictures, they make a great memory aid. Stuck in a flash flood area for hours in Cochiti, fixin' to die, when a navajo comes out of nowhere and pulls me out with his truck. Can't forget that.

Many wonderful hours spent by myself at the wildlife area, sorting things out free from human chatter and interference, taking photographs of my favorite raptors. I feel very blessed to have a life that affords me such diversions.

I can't explain the bird thing to those that don't get it.  Have stopped trying to justify my fascination. Did you know that we lost three more bird species this year, globally? The birds forever lost are two songbirds from northeastern Brazil, The Cryptic Treehunter Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti and Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi, the other extinct bird is Hawaii's Poo-uli.  An additional bird, Spix’s macaw has been declared extinct in the wild.

Swainson's Hawk
That might not seem like a lot but it becomes more serious when you realize that we have lost species of animals in the last hundred years in numbers not seen even during the time of the dinosaurs, the largest die-off in history. A thousand times as bad. No man is an island but by the time we figure out that we need the rest of nature alive too I am afraid that we will be s-o-l.

We have lost 447 species since 1900. And it looks to be getting worse. Two white rhinos left. About thirty vaquitas. Even less red wolves. Tons of plant species gone. Doesn't make me very hopeful, with humanity seemingly in retrograde.


On a happier note, I got some good trips in this year. Traveled to the 72 ounce steak place in Amarillo with Leslie, and back. Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Santa Fe. Portland. France. Oregon Coast. Mendocino. Redwoods. Morro Bay. Astoria. Bandon. Zebra herds in San Simeon.

Ken, Pat and I had a great trip to the Tetons and the surrounding areas. Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Chief Joseph Highway.

What a great life where I get to cruise around, capture images and write about my experiences. Some people would pay for this job.

And I'm complaining?

My back to basics black and white photography group on Google + officially went defunct today.  Soon the whole platform will expire. Shame to lose the Back to basics gang, some brilliant photographers from all over the world. Power of the internet.

I wish all of my readership, steady, new, friends, strangers, liberals, conservatives, even the lurkers, only the best of health, prosperity and happiness in 2019.

Let us hope for the best and kick some ass.


Over the mighty Columbia

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For some reason a lot of folks have been reading this old blogpost of late, From the Railbird's Perch. Written eight years ago, riffing on politics, I hadn't reread it in ages. Not bad, if I may say so myself. Kid has a way with words.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

James Thunderbird Davis

Buddy Ace



They called this early Duke artist from Texas the "Silver Fox" of the blues.

Dreamscape #185

I had a dream about my late friend Garry Cohen the other night. It was either a dream or a visitation, not sure which. Felt real.

Garry died of pancreatic cancer last year, left a big hole in many of our hearts. Have been thinking about my ceramist, glassblowing, jeweler pal a lot of late.

My friend of forty years, the Don of Del Dios, visited me in the dream. The somnambulant details are somewhat vague in the foggy present. I may have still been living at my old home in Rainbow. He wanted me to get him some medicine.

Although there was a little detail of my being naked, I walked across a barren field of scratchy thorns to deliver him the medicine. The next thing I  knew I was staring up at a Christmas tree festooned with ornaments made out of white crumpled paper. I unwrapped one, only to find that it was a report from one  of my recent doctor's visit as apparently were all the other decorations. I awoke.

In the nascent days of this blog, Grumpy was around to explain my dreams but he is long gone. He had a book he would consult. Whatever happened to that guy? As difficult as he could be at times he was a stalwart contributor to the blog. Miss him, Window Dancer too and Randy Walters. Warren Beecroft. People come and people go but there are many that I really do miss.

Like my pal Garry.

Teflon and polyester

My Poor Donald Trump post got picked up today by Crooks and Liars. They haven't published me in at least six or seven years so it is pretty cool, a couple extra thousand views today. It was fun in the old days when the feedjit gadget was still operational, you could watch people landing from all points every three seconds or so. Thanks, Crooks and Liars!

I don't get a lot of negative comments. Even the worst ones are usually pretty funny and don't really bother me, I only get a die jew about every five years or so. I just wish people would have a little courage and sign the nasty comments. I sign everything I write. 8055 blogposts and counting now. Sick of anonymous tough guys. I can tell Millard's comments 99% of the time but they are also always clever and pretty well informed even though I rarely agree with them.

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Leslie asked me if I wanted the cupcakes in the kitchen this morning? I said yes. She looked me in the eye and then threw them in the trash. Then she asked me if I wanted the leftover Christmas cookies? I said yes. Same thing, she looks at me straight in the punim and throws them in the trash. I think I may have to change my strategy.

Seriously I have been eating way too many sweets of late and I was secretly glad to see them go. Cardiologist said beware of flour and sugar and to get rid of the bowling balls under my shirt. I am looking forward to the result of my nuclear stress tests with no small measure of dread. And I have such a monastic diet too.

Heading for the twin ply double knit polyester stretchy pants. Hello, Ratners.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bobby "Blue" Bland and Wayne Bennett


One of the names that kept coming up as I started looking into the Duke record label was the late guitar player Wayne Bennett. Supposedly a major influence on Eric Clapton. Many accolades have been written about him. Listening to this and other tracks you can hear what a beautiful player he truly was. He played with many great performers including Jackie Wilson, Jerry Butler, Jimmy Reed and Ramsey Lewis, in a variety of styles. Died far too young.

Time for a little offense

I was not a big fan of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when I first read about her. I am a centrist, not a fringe guy or a socialist and I know somebody, somewhere has to pay for everything. But I have to admit that I am warming to her. Not her policy but her attitude. She doesn't take any crap from anybody, gives as good as she gets.

Sen. Mazie Hirono
The right might want to make her their punching bag but I think she can hold her own. Ditto Mazie Hirono. The Hawaiian senator is tough as nails, won't back down from anybody, calls bullshit when she hears it. Brian Schatz too, the other Hawaiian Senator. The Hawaiians have been quite vocal and awesome of late.

The Democrats have spent the last two years as soft targets, they are starting to get their mojo back. Trump lost the popular vote by over three million, kind of weird for him to think he has a mandate. There are still more of us then there are of them. But thanks to the undemocratic electoral college, the hayseeds are running the show.

It's a simple test. Who would you rather spend time with, Mazie Hirono or Louie "Goober" Gohmert? Ocasio Cortez or Steve King? I know who I would rather hang out with, and they are all blue and way more normal than your garden variety GOP member. Many of that group are plainly deranged.

Practically the only Republicans that are talking sense are the ones on their way out the door.

"We can secure our borders. We can solve this problem. This is a made-up fight.
It's a spectacle, and candidly, it's juvenile. The whole thing is juvenile."
Sen. Bob Corker

"Let us recognize from this place here today that the shadow of tyranny is once again enveloping parts of the globe. And let us recognize as authoritarianism reasserts itself in country after country that we are by no means immune."
Sen. Jeff Flake

“Sean Hannity and a few other people screamed fire. The president then fell in line behind Sean Hannity." 

Rep. Ryan Costello

The notion that a shutdown creates more pressure on Dems is toddler logic.
Rep. Ryan Costello

Trump has a “warped mind that would turn this statistic into fake news” about himself. “It might be a new low,” she said. “Boy, that’s saying something … How could you be so self-centered and try to distort the truth so much?”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen after Trump statements on Puerto Rico

Time to stop biting our lips and to come out swinging. This is our country.

Some pictures hanging around.

Egret at Santee lake
Sedona
Baby hummers
Death Valley monochrome

Osprey


She's got charisma


Stephen Schwartz sent me this recording. I was not aware of it. Apparently there was a period of time in 1973 when Jerry and Merls' band were playing with a second guitar player. And he was really quite good. The man's name was George Tickner and he was the original guitarist in both Journey and Frumious Bandersnatch. I didn't start to see the Jerry band until the following year, Martine Fierro was sitting in as he is here but Tickner did not play with them when I saw them for the first time at the Santa Barbara Bowl with Etta James. I think this is pretty tasty stuff. Stephen was a longtime roadie for this band, went on to become a preeminent antique dealer.

Be mad

Am I angry? Damn right I'm angry. And if you are not angry you are not paying attention. The EPA has announced its plans to limit mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants saying that restrictions are not cost-effective and should not be considered "appropriate and necessary."

Mercury has been shown to cause great health risks, including neurological disorders, improper motor functioning, poor cognitive functioning, heart and lung problems and compromised immune systems. Babies developing in the womb and young children are especially at risk.

Rather than shift from fossil fuels in order to meet our energy needs, the Trump administration has doubled down on them. A study published this month by Harvard University’s School of Public Health said coal-fired power plants are the top source of mercury in the United States, accounting for nearly half of mercury emissions. It pegs the cost to human health at approximately $4.8 billion dollars a year.

Mercury not only poses extreme health effects to people but especially to developing children, according to this study, there is no safe level of exposure.

Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health
Stephan Bose-O’Reilly, MD, MPH,a Kathleen M. McCarty, ScD, MPH,b Nadine Steckling, BSc,a and Beate Lettmeier, PhDa
Children are considered especially vulnerable to environmental threats. There are specific periods in their development when the exposure to a chemical, physical, or biological agent may result in adverse health outcomes.50-52 In addition to being especially susceptible due to their growth and development, exposures are often higher due to body weight and certain childhood behaviors make them more vulnerable to exposures (playing outside in the sand or soil, putting their hands in their mouths, etc).
Physiological differences between children and adults are not only manifest in immature metabolic pathways. Because important systems are still differentiating and growing, children have unique susceptibilities not seen in adults—and critical time windows for those susceptibilities.53,54 The critical times are preconception, gestation, and postnatal. More than 1 system can be susceptible and different pathology may occur depending on the dose and timing of exposure. The fetus and infant are especially vulnerable to mercury exposures. Of special interest is the development of the central nervous system. With the formation of neuronal cells and the subsequent stages of development, the central nervous system is created.55 Damage of the nervous system caused by mercury is likely to be permanent.56,57 Neurotoxic effects can result from prenatal or early postnatal exposure.58
Another study points to rising mercury levels in direct proportion to the declining Flynn effect, in other words, mercury is making us more stupid. And it ain't like we were raving genius's to start with.

What is more important, supporting healthy, intelligent adults and children or bailing out failing coal companies? The Trump administration has apparently made their choice and decision.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cracking Up

Poor Donald Trump

Cue the tears. The President is being harassed by his enemies, the democrats and their cohorts in crime, the Fake News Media. At every turn. A MAGA friend at breakfast told me, with a straight face the other day, that they had never done Obama this way. I didn't engage, what's the point, memories are short.


But the new narrative will surely be that the President is being victimized in a manner not seen since they set poor Joan of Arc on the hot kindling. All I can say is that he has got it coming. It is going to be very hard for me to work up a tear.

Bring it on, Adam Schiff. Bring it on Elijah Cummings. Bring it on Eric Swalwell. Hold fast Chuck Schumer. This immoral orange buffoon has made a mockery of our Presidency and Republic, he's led with his elbows the whole way and payback is a definite bitch. Put him and his whole family in jail, for all I care. Throw in Ivana and Marla if you have to, too. In the times of the pharaohs the whole family went into the tomb, even the housecats.

I just can't stand the constant lies every day. The troops are getting a 10% pay raise. They're not. Democrats love illegal criminals more than they love Americans. They don't. The military hasn't had a pay bump in ten years. Wrong. They have received one every year for three decades. The American people want a wall. They don't, as shown in poll after poll. Federal Employees are mostly Democrats. Really? Wrong, they are evenly split. He had nothing to do with Russia. He did. This guy makes shit up like nobody I have ever seen. Shameless.

Kim Philby
The Repubs had both Houses of Congress, the Executive office, willing accomplices at the Supreme Court and they didn't do squat for two years on the wall or health care or anything much else except produce a big fat tax cut for their cronies that they couldn't pay for and swell the federal deficit and then suddenly a stupid border wall becomes an issue right before the midterms. Funny.

Trump said yesterday that illegals are running all over people's lawns in San Diego. I haven't seen that. Mowing them occasionally, yes. And I live here.

Impeachment talk is stupid. Well go ahead if you want to, but it is ultimately a pyrrhic exercise and totally pointless. The Senate GOP majority will never sign off on it. Rather see Jarred and Don Jr. in Attica or Ossining for a stretch, let the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorneys do their job. Indict, don't impeach.

Maybe Trump will do his best Kim Philby impression and escape back to his handlers in Moscow one night and do us all a favor. And one day the real story about the adderall addiction and the pee pee tapes will surely bubble up to daylight.

Trump was averaging about seven lies a day but he is really pushing the envelope and is reportedly now up to ten. And the fun doesn't even start until the new Congress is sworn in and the Mueller report comes out, my bet is that he cracks like Humpty Dumpty.

And all of Trump's lawyers and all the Don's men, couldn't put the poor bastard together again.

Peregrine over the Pacific


Junior Parker

On the Stork Tower

© Robert Sommers 2019
王之涣 《登鹳雀楼》

白日依山尽,

黄河入海流。
欲穷千里目,
更上一层楼。











On The Stork Tower —- By Wang Zhihuan The sun beyond the mountains glows; The Yellow River seawards flows. You can enjoy a grander sight, By climbing to a greater height.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Is Trump a Russian asset?

Interesting article over at Haaretz, Ex-Mossad Head: Russia Decided Trump Was Their Best Candidate, and Ran Him for President. There have been similar stories around for some time, like Could Donald Trump really be spying for Vladimir Putinfrom the Irish Times. Or the Theory of Trump Kompromat at the New Yorker.

This sort of question is certainly out of my pay grade but it would explain a lot. Much has been made of Trump throwing the Kurds under the bus with the recent withdrawal from Syria but Israel is in the crosshairs too, they never saw the withdrawal coming. Trump was their new best friend, remember? But his attachment to Putin is somehow stronger.

Russia came down on the Israelis with a strong condemnation today. The Russians and Iranians are gearing up to divide the country and the Turks plan on eradicating a lifelong nemesis in the Kurds. Netanyahu thought he was such good pals with Trump but Donald was not about to cross his Russian masters.

I blame the Israeli Prime Minister for many things, not the least of which was putting his faith in another man who could not be trusted.

Bitches Brew



Nick and Tony and I were having coffee this morning and Nick posed a hypothetical question. "If you could be at any recording session in history, which one would you pick? I'll make it easier for you, pick three." Nick is a hot bluegrass mandolin player. I asked Nick his personal choices and he said the Derek and the Dominos Layla Sessions with Duane Allman, he also mentioned the Rounder 44 bluegrass session and the epic Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Presley session at Sun. Then he snuck a fourth in with Tom Scholz's Boston album, the first one that he produced at home. Tony volunteered the Aretha Franklin Atlantic Muscle Shoals recording, I'm assuming the one where everybody was nasty and drunk. Somebody suggested any Motown Funk Brothers session 1961-66. I threw a couple out there and then took a couple back. First was on the roof with the Beatles for Get Back. Second on the roof with the Airplane for Ballad of you and me and Pooneil. I guess I like the roof. Third would be Bitches Brew, Miles Davis groundbreaking album which was both loved and hated at the time of its release, a legendary deviation for the beebop master. Such a hard choice, would have loved to hear Stravinski conduct and record Fantasia with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I think I will drop the Airplane and sub in my favorite live album of all time, John Mayall's The Turning Point. Still revelatory for me. Tough question. Someone was talking the other day about the legendary performances of Streisand at the Lion or Bon Soir at the age of 19. Your picks?

Female harrier


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry X

Santa just called, said his belief in Donald Trump is pretty marginal. Wonder what it cost the taxpayer for the President's wife to fly back from Maro Lago on a moments notice to console the petulant child at the White House?

Thought it was funny the other day when after it was pointed out that Trump was acting against the wishes of the entire Pentagon and defense establishment in his Syria and Afghanistan moves. Mick Mulvaney said that Trump didn't care about the opinion of experts, he cares about the opinion of the uneducated common folk. What a way to run a country. Nice to see that the non educated deplorable base's opinion once again trumps wisdom and common sense from the informed people on the ground and the educated people who actually know what is going on. Let the idiots run the show!

As I expected, Rand Paul stepped up and supported him. Time for the Syrians to support themselves. Like the Kurds can fend off the Turks, one of the largest armies in the world, a dispossessed people who have had our backs from day one.

Willful ignorance wins again!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Teton sky


LARRY DAVIS - ANGELS IN HOUSTON - DUKE



I have been really getting into the records from this little fifties era Memphis record company, Duke. They weren't on my homescreen before but everything I have heard from them has been great.

Field day, San Jacinto

Harrier aka Marsh Hawk
With all the craziness, travel and medical issues I have been dealing with, I haven't been out with my camera for ages. I miss it, capturing images is a big part of my being.

I decided that that was going to change today. Got up with the sun and drove up to the reserve in San Jacinto.

I usually have the place to myself but there were four or five cars out there today, due to the holiday. Cool, I can share.

As always, please click on a photograph so that you can see them all enlarged.

butcher bird
First bird I saw was this beautiful loggerhead shrike or butcher bird.


I espied a hawk or eagle on a distant rock perch to my left. It was out of reach for my lens setup but I snapped a few pics anyway. I have shot eagles in that area before. This one looked like a red tailed hawk at the extreme distance with its prominent white chest. I took some shots with my longer Sigma 150-600mm C but haven't looked at them yet and the nikkor 400mm 2.8 prime has much better optical quality. Not an eagle.

kestrel

I shot birds in the field, on the wing, in the trees, on a perch like this kestrel here. Made some, flubbed some, the usual. Saw some new birds, failed to see some regulars like the kite or the vermilion flycatcher. Saw a golden eagle but it was a long way away. Mostly it just felt really great to be back in nature, in the clean air, listening to the sounds of the natural world. Saw some rather large mountain lion tracks. They are there, I still have not managed to run into one...

Mighty San Gorgonio provided a lovely backdrop

I took a long hike with my heavy gear. Wondered for a second if it was wise with my recent heart mishegoss but went for it anyway. It was beautiful out there. I wish that I had put my wide angle on to capture the gorgeous landscapes and reflections but for some reason I never did. Need to come back soon and shoot landscapes for a change.

There were hawks beyond count, maybe a hundred or more. I didn't even stop to shoot very many, just enjoyed the immense pleasure of their company. I believe that this guy, partially obscured by shadow is a dark morph red tailed juvenile. Rare to see them this chocolatey.

Red tailed juvenile
At times the red tailed hawks came in bunches.

It is really amazing to see the many different color variations of this marvelous buteo.

I drove out towards the Walker Ponds and saw a juvenile or immature bald eagle on a telephone pole. I walked pretty close but the bird did not seem to be bothered by me in the least.

We chilled and enjoyed the morning together.

Some Vietnamese guys with big lenses came by behind me and started firing off shots. There is a definite field etiquette which we all try not to cross and they were respectful and cool. Don't kill anybody else's shot.

Eventually our raptor flew the roost.

My friends in Alaska tell me that eagles are like pigeons up there, they still fascinate me and probably will forever.


I had heard tales of an albino harrier hereabouts for months but had never seen it before today.  A ghost bird. I thought that it might be leucistic but it is merely a lighter morph adult male. Fairly typical, I guess I mostly see females. Wish I could have taken a clearer shot. I will be back. Beautiful bird.



Glad I was able to see it. Come to think of it, this shot ain't too bad. Have a couple more to look at too.

I drove back to the loop and took my walk. Saw the standard stuff and this lovely bird in a tree.

I am going to guess a violet green  tree swallow (thanks, Ken Weaver). I have shot them in the air but never perched. Tell me if I am wrong.

It was time to leave. As I was driving out I saw the three fellow photographers with their tripods, wimberley's and long lens's out taking pictures of this harrier feasting on a coot by the edge of the road.


I joined them and grabbed some shots.


It will take some time to process and to see what I have got. The bird left and came back several times, was a bit bothered so I decided to split. Don't like people watching me eat either.

I talked to the other photographers, they spoke broken english but told me that they had shot a peregrine earlier. I was incredulous, never seeing peregrine falcons there. But hey, they said they saw it,  might as well believe them.

I stopped off at my office to unload my gear and stuck my card into the computer. Funny, that hawk or eagle I saw on the rock. It was actually a peregrine falcon. They were right.

Hopefully I will be back very soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Oxbow Bend


Rosco Gordon - Just a Little Bit

Five star utility man

JACQUELYN MARTIN / AP
Trump apparently can't bear to look at his retiring Secretary of Defense James Mattis for another second longer than he has to and is sticking a Deputy, Patrick Shanahan in, to temporarily fill the position.

General Mattis is now scheduled to scram January 1 instead of staying through February as was originally planned.

I confess that I don't know much about Shanahan but I wonder why Trump felt the need to make that move when he had such a great utility player right under his nose who could surely play the position.

Mick Mulvaney can't be that busy, can he? What is one more job for a guy like Mick? He is currently Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Acting White House Chief of Staff and was acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He can hit, he can field and he can tell the President how great he is on a daily basis and let Trump be Trump. Surely he can play Secretary of Defense too.

Mulvaney is a brown noser non pareil. Guy is an expert at talking through both sides of his mouth, as a congressman he claimed to be a fiscal conservative but during Mulvaney's tenure as OMB Director there was a dramatic expansion in the Federal deficit due to huge spending increases and massive tax cuts. In a rare moment of candor he allowed as to how asinine the idea of a border wall was but now manages to laugh his indiscretion off as a joke.

Fire everybody else, Mick and Trump can run the whole show between them!

You want me to jump? How high Mr President?