Monday, July 26, 2010

Recent whereabouts...

If you're wondering where I've been or what's happened to me, rest assured I'm not dead, but I recently woke up in Montana and thought I might be, because I was most definitely in heaven...

"I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it."

                                             John Steinbeck (from Travels With Charley: In Search of America)

I've been going to Montana to visit my father since I was in high school, and each time I come home to Oklahoma a little piece of me stays there. One day, one day, all of me will. But not this trip. Pics and blogs to follow, but right now I'm tired so the rest of the quote from one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors will have to suffice...

"Montana seems to me to be what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans. "

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quick poll on the redesign...

I'm not finished with it by a long shot but this is the basic format I settled on. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Any viewing issues? And no one's going to comment on how the mallard finished off the Grouse and then pawned his jewelry to buy a bottle of Laphroaig?

In the immortal words of Gob Bluth... "Come on!"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Jimmy Lafave, Favorites 1992-2001...

... goes on sale July 20 with cover art (and back/inside art) by yours truly. For more of Jimmy's music, check out Music Road Records. Jimmy is a longtime fixture in the Austin music scene, and it's a testament to my belief in the basic stupidity and bad taste of most people that he's not more popular with a mainstream audience than he is.

I believe I've used the image before on the blog, but since I'm too lazy to link to it, it's a shot looking down an abandoned road on the north side of what I believe to be the only "ghost reservoir" in the United States, Optima Lake in Texas County in the Oklahoma panhandle. Optima was a failed Army Corps of Engineers project back in the seventies. The idea was to build a large flood-control and recreational reservoir, but the lake never reached full pool (never really even came close) and the area was - quite literally - abandoned not long after construction was completed.

Now it sits empty and largely forgotten, its playgrounds, showers, campsites, bathrooms and roads slowly succumbing to time and the elements. It's a fascinating - if a bit spooky - place  and I never fail to stop there and knock around when I'm out that way. Look for a road trip pictorial on it soon, and I'm also planning a couple duck and quail hunts there this fall, as the lake still holds some marshy water down below the dam that attracts quite a few ducks and there are a few scaled quail (but not many, so really, it's not worth your time...) running around.

As for the picture itself, it was - along with a few more black and white images of mine - part of an Oklahoma Today photography exhibit at the state capital a few years. Jimmy saw it, recognized some quality in the image that meshed with his music, and asked to use it. I was honored to say yes, because the first time I heard the plaintive, ascetic quality of his music I instantly knew we were on the same page. I've been a huge fan ever since. His songs are like, well, a stark plains landscape set to music.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I'll be messing around with the look of the blog for the next few days so don't be alarmed by the never-ending procession of clashing color schemes and format. Eventually I'll settle on something that will end up at best a marginal improvement over the previous incarnation and at worst a helluva lot uglier...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Forget the hot tub, I want a "Tackle Store Time Machine."

No, I haven't seen the movie, but in keeping with the theme of the last blog, Joe Cermele over at F&S had an interesting blog post last week about a late-seventies, early-eighties era striper decal he found at a local hardware store. It got me to thinking about my own interest in fishing tackle and sporting memorabilia from that time, the era in which I came of age.

In no way can the ads and items from the seventies and eighties be considered the kind of classic, stylized art deco objets d'art that the earlier stuff has become, but it has its own unique charms, even if those charms ooze schlock.

And such it is with fishing tackle. I have a special interest in vintage tackle and ads from the seventies and eighties because well, that's when I came of age. I'm constantly cruising the pawn shops and little small-town hardware stores for the tackle that time forgot. Old rods, reels, tackle and tackle boxes: it's amazing what's still out there sitting on store shelves. Whether it's pawn shops or some old ramshackle small-town bait store, I'm always on the prowl.

I've also got a bunch of baits from the same period. There's nothing better than walking into an old hardware or small-town general store and finding that stuff still on the shelf; old, sun-bleached, utterly forgotten. It really is a "Tackle Store Time Machine."

The funny thing is, although (as I mentioned it the last blog) I absolutely love the ads and commercial art from the early golden period of hunting and fishing commercial art (I'm currently reading a biography of the great Lynn Bogue Hunt) I don’t really care for that earlier (and much more expensive and collectable) fishing tackle. I guess it just doesn't resonate as much for me because I wasn't around then.

But old tackle from the seventies is like drinking an ice-cold coke made with real sugar out of a glass bottle with a bunch of salty peanuts in it, a delicious and fleeting evocation of a time and place you can't get back to.

Oh, I know the Mann's Jelly Worm is still being produced, but it's a pretty safe bet the package they come in no longer proclaims it as the bait that won the 1973 Miller High Life Bassmasters Classic. And the Bill Norman Snatrix is long gone (as is its creator, Dr. Loren Hill, the undisputed dean of late seventies-early eighties bass fishing research-related gimmickry. I took a fishing class with Loren Hill at the OU Biological Station at Lake Texoma my senior year of college. It was interesting. I'l blog about it sometime...). The Hustler-T (which I believe is actually still around and has since morphed into the Lil Hustler Bait Company) was a popular locally-made soft bait from the time when small regional tackle and bait companies could survive by selling their products to the thousands of small, independent tackle shops that pre-dated the coming of the big mega-chains and big-box stores.

From a collector or value standpoint none of this stuff  or any other tackle from that era will really ever be worth much (although prices on some of those early Shimano, Daiwa and Lew's baitcasters are starting to take off), but from where I stand, they're priceless.

In fact, look for an all-retro bass fishing pictorial sometime in the future. No tackle made after the first break-up of Van Halen allowed...

A little Art Deco coolness...

I love trains. Always have. My grandfather worked for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for 36 years, and when I was a boy I spent a lot of time in the historic Norman depot ( back when it was just a depot) watching people board the Amtrak Lone Star and wondering where they were going, and why.

Trains for me always held mystery and excitement and the promise of adventure. In no small sense they were the genesis of my subsequent interest in art deco commercial art, specifically travel literature posters and ads from the "Golden Age" of travel and sporting art. Everything about industrial design and commercial art just seemed, I don't know, cooler back then.

Even the freight trains were better looking. Amtrak left Oklahoma in 1979 and a Santa Fe got swallowed up by Burlington Northern sometime in the 90s, but every now and then, when I'm stopped at a railroad crossing watching those horribly ugly Burlington Northern engines go by I'll see an old Santa Fe engine that has somehow escaped the paint shop, still decked out in a faded yet classic Yellow Bonnet or War Bonnet paint scheme, and I become that wonder (and wander)-filled kid again, standing in the lobby of the Norman train station staring at one of those classic old travel posters and dreaming of the big, wide world...

But I digress...

This morning I stumbled across a collection of very cool art deco and steampunk-ish train pics and ads from the twenties and thirties and thought I'd share, via Dark Roasted Blend. They're worth a look...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh hell, not another "sign"...

(Picture of Howard Hill shamelessly ripped off from somewhere in the Internets...) 

Just found out this morning that I got drawn for what is surely one of the most coveted and unique deer archery hunts in not only the state but the entire nation, the fall archery hunt at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in southeastern Oklahoma.

What is it, exactly? Well, that's where our bombs are made and/or stored...

Located on 45,000 acres in southeastern Oklahoma, MCAAP is centrally located in the United States with access by major highway, railway, and waterway. MCAAP has six ammunition production, maintenance and renovation complexes and is a major ammunition storage site for all branches of the Armed Forces with nearly 2,300 storage magazines and six million square feet of covered explosive storage space.

It is the Defense Department's largest explosive storage facility. MCAAP has a proud history of meeting the munitions needs of our customers - America's Armed Forces - through war and peace for over 60 years. Team McAlester has but one goal, "a total commitment to ammunition and missile readiness with our focus on the Warfighter".

But it's not the bombs that make this place so cool, it's the deer. Since the hunt's inception it's been strictly managed as an archery-only trophy whitetail hunt. Simply put, you've got a better chance to kill a P&Y whitetail there than anywhere else in the state and possibly the nation. The hunting is that good. I've talked to several guys who have drawn out without killing anything and they tell me it's like nothing they've ever seen.

But if it's so good, then why is it so hard to fill a tag? Well, for one southeastern Oklahoma isn't what most outsiders consider "Oklahoma." No sweeping plains here: It's rough, rugged, mountainous, isolated country. Second, this is a working military base, security is very tight and as such there are restrictions on where, how and when you can hunt. Third, take a look at this photo gallery of some of the 2009 bucks taken by hunters and tell me what you see, or more specifically, don't see.

That's right, there aren't any wheels or cams on those bows. The McAlester hunt is and always has been a traditional archery only hunt. A stick and a string. All you space-age carbon-fiber speed freaks, well, you can just suck it.

As a space-age carbon fiber speed freak, that means I've got to dust off my old Damon Howatt Hunter, order a couple dozen Port Orford cedar shafts and start flinging arrows, because the Bowtech is going to be seeing some closet time this year.

But here's the thing, and the reason I think this might be...a sign (and for a brief introduction to my previous experience with "signs" click here ). I was planning on doing that anyway. I shoot both modern and traditional bows, and I go through stages with both. For the past few years I've been shooting a compound, but last year I really started missing the allure and simple, elegant deadliness of traditional gear, so I decided this next season I'd go back to hunting with the recurve.

And when this morning I logged on to the state wildlife department website and found I'd been drawn for the McAlester hunt, well, I just knew it was one of those signs I'm famous for.

The internal voice whispered "this is the year you get your P&Y whitetail, and you're going to do it with traditional gear. I'm telling you, self, it's...a sign. if ever there was one."

Which means, of course, that I am so freakin' doomed...

This is a unique enough hunt that I'm planning on pitching it as a feature story somewhere. The only questions are where to pitch it and what angle that pitch will take. Normally that would be easy: pitch it to one of the bowhunting mags and write about the incredible hunting, the high-security setting (for example, no cameras in your stands or blinds) and the difficulty of taking a trophy buck with traditional gear.

But since it's me we're talking about and the result of one of my "signs" I'll probably end up in McSweeney's and the pitch will be the folly of unsubstantiated faith...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jenny Update

I haven't written much about the new pup Jenny lately, but that's because there's really not much to write about. I haven't done anything at all in the way of training so far. Just basic obedience and leash work, as well as long walks in the woods to let her start exploring her range. She's a bold little fart and I really like the way she runs, but I have to admit I've had to resist the temptation to slip back into retriever training mode.

The video above is of me messing around a bit with the old "quail wing on a fishing pole" routine. Probably a bad idea, but I've only done it once or twice to see how she reacts. The sight-points in this video (the only one I have) aren't terribly intense because she was flat worn-out after chasing Tess and the boys around the yard, but I think she's going to be a pretty stylish little girl. Most of the time she's got a nice, high tail and that really intense stare when she locks up. I'm really looking forward to the fall, whether she's ready or not...

Other than steady to shot I never really "trained" my old pointer DP. All I did was run her on as many birds as I could and she just sorta trained herself. I never did force-fetch her and so she was a lousy retriever, but she pointed and backed pretty much naturally (I sure didn't teach her) and I'm hoping Jenny follows suit, because I'm no great shakes as a trainer. One nice surprise I've discovered is that so far Jenny seems to be a natural and enthusiastic retriever (OK, so maybe I cheated a little and I actually have been working on that some...).

Of course, just because we haven't been training doesn't mean we haven't been busy learning...she's claimed the house (and my chair) as her own, she's completely won over my non-dog cat-loving wife, charmed the neighbors and my setter-owning vet and even garnered grudging affection from grumpy old lady Tess.

She's slammed headfirst into our metal pole feeder while trying to jump high enough the reach the suet hanging therein, she's fallen headfirst in the water garden several times (no water dog she...), learned that the two cats she loves to chase do not, in fact, have claws, learned how to chase the deer away from the feeder (and gotten whacked by one surly doe in the process), learned how to chase the squirrels out of the yard, learned how to chase the turkeys off the back porch (see a pattern here?) sight-pointed all of the former, as well as mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove, cardinals, lark sparrows, buntings, chickadees, titmice, cowbirds, toads, leopard frogs, grasshoppers and pretty much anything else that moves.

And oh yes, she loves to chew up my underwear. I first learned of this peculiarity one evening as I looked up from the book I was reading just in time to observe a pair of underwear with four little white legs streaking down the hall toward me. If nothing else, it teaches me to keep my dirty clothes in the hamper...

Next up are introductions to gunfire, maybe some planted birds to get her using her nose and trips to the local WMA for some extended walks and more exploration, although with the way she's starting to run I'll probably be strapping the Garmin Astro (more on this as she gets older) on her. It's also getting to the time when I start shaking the rust (and summer fat) off Tess and of course Jenny will be tagging along on those training sessions as an observer.

Any readers with dog experience are encouraged, nay, begged, to bestow upon me any suggestions or criticisms they see fit to share...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How I train my dog to chase down cripples.

Well, not really. I'm just playing around with my wife's flipcam and trying to get this Youface thing down. I'm planning on getting a little waterproof HD camcorder of my own and maybe adding a video training log for the dogs, as well as maybe filming a few hunts, fishing trips and whatever weirdness I happen to find.

I've never played around with either video or Youtube, so bear with me. I may post some truly boring, inane video clips, but I need the practice.

That's my grumpy old female Tessie the Chessie in the video. She dislikes machines, strangers and annoying puppies who view her as a giant, moving chewtoy.

More impetus for that mid-life career change...

From this interesting article in AdAge

After Andrew Brining took the bar exam two years ago, he had plenty of time on his hands, and he made a habit of perusing sports news online as he awaited the results. The 31-year-old San Francisco Giants fan, however, found the predictably captious nature of sports coverage frustrating. "It's perversely counterintuitive," he said. "You're interested in this to be entertained, right?"

On the hunt for more positive fare he stumbled onto, where anybody can apply to post an original sports article. So he contributed a post. Then another. And another. In the past two years, Mr. Brining has written more than 500 articles for Bleacher, a prolific output that is more stunning for another fact: He wrote them all for free.

He is one of more than 3,600 Bleacher authors who willingly write without remuneration, and their gratis efforts suggest there's a major adjustment going on in the economics of content. Despite the attention around search specialists such as Demand Media, Associated Content and Examiner, a growing group of sites is betting on something better than cheap content: free content.

...Despite a widespread jingoism among media watchers favoring new forms of journalism, some observers say no-cost writing is a disquieting trend. "I wonder whether we're seeing the 'Craigslist effect,' but for content," Newsonomics author Ken Doctor said, referring to how the free-listings site has vitiated the classifieds business. "You make the cost of content creation so much cheaper, but in so doing you are ruining the economics of traditional news publishing."

Indeed, publishers have caught on to this changing tide. Bleacher Report has inked content deals with major media companies, including Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle,,, and the ailing, a property of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which, along with Philadelphia Daily News, was bought out of bankruptcy in April for $135 million. Bleacher publishes a page for each partner, which has the look and feel of the publisher's content but which entirely features Bleacher writers. The site splits ad revenue. An insider says Bleacher will be profitable this year. The company just appointed a new CEO, Brian Grey of Polaris Venture Partners and the former senior VP of Fox Sports Interactive.

"I'm sensitive to writers who say, 'What are you doing giving your writing away for free?'" said Mr. Brining, who after failing the bar three times decided writing was more than a hobby. He is supported by his family. "Yes, Bleacher Report is reaping the financial rewards of my work, but it's also helping me achieve my career. If I am good at this, the compensation will come."

Really? If he's good at it the compensation will come? From where, exactly? It would be like me saying that obviously I'm writing this blog for free, but if I'm good someone will suddenly decide to pay me for the privilege of reading it? (Line forms to the left, BTW. Please get out your pocketbooks...).

There are legions of good, uncompensated writers out there, so I won't even touch the issue of how massively naive this poor guy is in his assertion of a correlation between talent and success. Anyone who's ever tried to hustle a buck off the written word knows the publishing industry is full of profoundly talentless people in positions of success and power. How they got there remains a mystery, but there they most certainly are.

And nothing illustrates that little truism better than the trend represented by Mr. "If I Write Good They Will Come." Most free content is worth (in an editorial sense) about as much as it cost: nothing. But leave it to the geniuses in the flagging publishing industry to hang their hopes not on quality, but on the hucksterish and quientessentially modern American notion of trying to sell nothing for something.

I don't know what makes me more depressed: that this is the future of publishing, or that it seems to be working. Who woulda ever thunk that high quality, original writing for which the author is duly compensated (in actual currency) would someday be relegated to niche publishing?