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Cocktail Hour


Lundgren’s Lounge: “H is for Hawk,” by Helen Macdonald

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald

 

Living with a bird is an education. I recently heard an ornithologist point out that, regardless of how long a bird has been a member of your household, that bird will always remain a wild animal. I was reminded of this one Sunday last winter when our  morning coffee was interrupted by a wild cacophony of screams and shrieks from Ruby’s cage in the kitchen (Ruby is an umbrella cockatoo that we adopted years ago); rushing out we were astonished to come face to face with a hawk, perched on the railing of our deck peering in at Ruby. The hawk was magnificent–breathtakingly majestic and with both talons firmly planted in a world of unfettered wildness far beyond our limited and merely human comprehension.

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A Talk with Jack Loeffler (And Another Talk this Coming Wednesday)

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lofeller3Next Wednesday night I’ll be at Collected Works in Santa Fe at 6pm. It’s a long drive so we are starting tomorrow (Sunday) morning so we get there on time!

 

I will be introduced by, and in conversation with, Jack Loeffler, one of Edward Abbey’s closest friends. Loeffler lives in the hills outside of Santa Fe,and when I was traveling for the book my friend Mark Honerkamp and I dropped by and spoke with Loeffler in the open, book-filled study of his single-story adobe home.  (These are the pictures Mark took while we spoke.)

 

“What Ed and I knew, on some fundamental level, is that once you’ve been out in it long enough, it becomes the top priority,” he told us as we settled into the study. “When you’re out in it fully, you recognize it’s where you belong. We concluded that it took a good ten days in the wilderness. Until you began to change. You need to live in the spirit of nature, so that it’s totally and intuitively in your system. Then you don’t have any choice but to defend it.”

 

A handsome, fit 74 year old man with a big smile and white beard, Loeffler was innately theatrical. He wore an open Western shirt, kerchief and khaki shorts. His whole demeanor was what I can only describe as oddly joyful.

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Lundgren’s Lounge: “All Involved,” by Ryan Gattis

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Gattis

All Involved, despite its rather pedestrian title, is an astonishing work of fiction chronicling the events around and in Los Angeles in the six days following the Rodney King verdict. Over two decades after the riots that ensued following the acquittal of the three white LAPD officers, author Ryan Gattis offers up a riveting, nuanced, multi-perspective account of the six days of rage. In the aftermath of recent civil unrest in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore and the inevitable question (raised by mostly white pundits and talking heads), regarding why “these people” would destroy their own neighborhoods as a form of protest, Gattis provides some possible insights… regardless of whether or not it’s what we want to hear. Continue reading →

O is for Osprey

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The 15th anniversary of Return of the Osprey is coming up, and it might be time for a little repackaging.  What do you think?

o for osprey029

A Reality Show You’ll Love. No, Really.

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ALASKANS-master315I’m not a big reality TV person, though we did watch the first season or two of “Survivor” (ironically at first, with cocktails aplenty, but then honestly into it, caught up in seeing if Richard Hatch could lie his way into the winner’s circle), so it was partly out of obligation that I tuned into my friend Jim Campbell’s new show, “The Last Alaskans.” But by the time the first scene ended, I knew something different was going on than the usual reality fare–“Hey, Mildred, look at this idiot spearing a catfish!”–and I soon understood that I was witnessing something beautiful. The scenery was one of the stars and real star, Heimo Korth, was funny,soft-spoken and smart. The pace wasn’t frenetic and Heimo wasn’t required to throw a hatchet that would hit a target that dropped another trapper into a dunking booth. Instead he talked about the challenges and pleasures of living on the land.

 

Listening to Heimo felt a little like listening to an old friend, since I had gotten to know him in Jim’s fine book, The Final Frontiersmen. But I didn’t know Ray Lewis, who speaks like a mountain man crossed with a poet, or Bob Harte, who at first seems like comic relief but turns out to be more than he first appears (part of that more being he is a lot of fun).  In just one small example of how the show flouts the usual reality conventions there is a nice moment when the usually invisible cameraman tells Bob that one of his plane’s wheels hit the water during a landing.  Somehow this breaking through the wall seemed more real than reality,a natural thing that someone filming up in the middle  of nowhere would say to the person being filmed.  It’s just one of many examples of how this show is better than the rest of its kind.

 

And if you don’t believe Bill and Dave’s, listen to the NY Times rave: Continue reading →

The Washington Post Chimes in

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ed tvJust in time for the long weekend, The Washington Post chimes in on All the Wild:

Gessner’s book serves as an excellent primer to readers new to Abbey and Stegner, and an insightful explanation of their continuing relevance. Gessner, an important nature writer and editor in his own right, also uses the writers’ lives as a template for his exploration of the Western landscape they lived in and wrote about. He visits places that were important to All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner,…​ and Stegner, and draws trenchant conclusions about the current state of affairs in a region still battling over how to best protect and exploit its fragile resources…..

 

 

Gessner’s reporting, whether profiling Stegner and Abbey’s acolyte Wendell Berry or observing the consequences of Vernal, Utah’s fracking boom, is vivid and personable. In his able hands, Abbey and Stegner’s legacy is refreshed for a new generation of readers. Perhaps now even the Easterners will take notice.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/westerners-aaa steg in 60swith-sharp-pens/2015/05/21/3b4193e2-e1fe-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html

Anxious is Back, but in a Minor Key

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Jukebox

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Anxious Bode

Anxious Bode

Rachmaninoff was a minor composer. Not minor as in of no importance, he just composed a lot in minor scale. Depressed third if you wish. I feel it, that’s why I don’t play too much Rachmaninoff. Except when I’m depressed, but then, it’s roll over Rach, you want to hear what depression sounds like, I’m the undisputed king, I get free depression just from waking up. I know, it’s unfair, why me. Because someone has to give. I get all the blessings, but the blessings mean nothing, if they’re not shared, that is given. I give, so I can live. My name is Anxious Bode, professor of panic and sleep disorders. I teach at night, when I can see more clearly. It’s also the time at which I wake up. I have Parkinson’s disease. My nights are short.

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Bad Advice Wednesday: Take my Graphic Novel Class!

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I am teaching my graphic novel class again at UNCW and somehow, mysteriously, only have 3 students enrolled. Please help me out and spread the word. I mean wtf? It’s a graphic novel class. Here’s a blog from the last time I offered it:

Last fall I taught a course on the graphic novel.  I’m pretty sure it was the first time I taught a class where the students clearly knew more about the subject than I did.  This was by plan.  I’d been a cartoonist in college and when I decided I wanted to return to cartooning, and to possibly write/draw a graphic novel, I figured I had better educate myself in the genre.  What better way to educate myself, and to force myself to read, than to teach a course to grad students?  And it worked–for me at least.  (The students may tell another story.)

It turned out I learned a lot, in large part thanks to my students, and next time round I’m sure I’ll do a much better job.  But the funny thing is that while I had only read two graphic novels when I first conceived of the class, it was these novels that still stood tall at the end of the term.  I guess it should come as no surprise that these novels were Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. But the class did hold surprises, and one of the primary ones were the books of Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics and Making Comics. I know McCloud already has a huge following but it should be even bigger, Continue reading →

Gessner Receives Four-Post Suspension for “Boothgate”

categories: Cocktail Hour / Don't Talk About Politics

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kenyon review

The explosive photograph

The National Bloggers League today handed down a four-post suspension for David Gessner, Captain of the world-champion blog Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour.  Fans were left wailing and enemies gloating. “I feed off their hatred,” said Mr. Gessner in a rare comprehensible moment. He was suspended in part for his brazen capture of the Kenyon Review table at AWP 2015 in Minneapolis, but also for his comments afterwards.  “I never denied it,” he says.  And, “I have the utmost respect for the Ken Doll Review.”  His partner in crime, head coach Bill “Billychek” Roorbach, who arrived on the scene late but in time for shots of contraband whiskey, received a lighter penalty–he must sit with Dave in the writing shack during the suspension–without alcohol. “Harsh, that’s what I call it,” says Roorbach, the best writer in America and beyond (rated slightly better than Dave in most polls).  “…And besides, I was napping during the alleged piratical behavior.”  As a final measure, the NBL will crash Bill and Dave’s four times in the 2015-2016 season, always just as Dave’s and Bill’s books have the usual big news to share.  And no more AWP. Continue reading →