Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Offline Chatter

And now for something completely different...

With puzzled but indulgent permission from Steve, Reid and Patrick, I compiled a digest of some recent exchanges we shared offline and will post them here.

It's basically a round robin on canned hunts, our collapsing culture and kids these days. For those wanting to skip this discussion, I'll cut to the conclusion: We solved nothing.

But please feel free to keep the ball rolling in Comments!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion--and an extremely enjoyable blog! I'm a friend of Steve's--a falconer at the University of Oklahoma--we suffer from the same fascination with central asian falconry. I'm just finishing up hacking aplomados for the P-Fund, and since I've suddenly stumbled upon an Internet connection out here, though I'd take advantage of the opportunity.

A few observations:

I see this collapse of culture, or rather, the homogenization of culture, to countless magnification on my college campus. The masses gravitate toward whatever popculture promotes. The instant gratification mentality--from text messaging, instant messaging, the internet, bigger is better, quicker is better--seems to stifle that natural human curiosity to explore. Real travel, not the occasional jaunt to Cancun, is an unnecessary and expensive inconvenience. Still others are apprehensive about embarking alone, or temporarily forsaking the comforts of American life. Isn't the beauty of travel being incommunicado for a while?

Another example: One of my hack partners hardly had the patience for hacking. She'd sleep when the falcons 'weren't doing anything interesting', text her friends at the site, and call her boyfriend constantly from the blind. Spectacular hunts and catches never occurred 20 ft right in front of us, sure. You had to find a strategic location, glass the right areas, interpret bird behavior, and most importantly, wait. All it took was a bit of patience.

Even within my zoology department, many students seem to go for the packaged, carefully organized internships--rather than jobs offering practical field experience, but also some unknown quantities and potential sticky situations. I suppose after being visually assalted and bombarded by it for so long, to be cut off from TV, the Internet, fast food, etc, can be a little too much. At least three college students buggered off upon arrival this season, when they realized what 'isolated and primitive conditions' meant on the P-Fund application.

On a different tangent, I've noticed that an apparent majority of kids walking to class are listening to iPods. Rarely can I stop and chat with someone. Their glazed-over eyes might momentarily refocus and give me a wave, but then they are off again, silently mouthing lyrics. Are the world and people around them that boring that they constantly have to be supplemented by a stream of music?

I think this has morphed into a bit of a ramble, but suffice it to say: I quite enjoyed the thought-provoking "offline chatter", and notice and lament the lack of appreciation of the natural world (as evidenced by canned hunts) and by extension, the world abroad.

Keep up the great posts!

Matt Mullenix said...

Thanks for your comments Lauren and bless you for working to tie that all together---as if we were making sense! I work on a university campus now, and have worked for a state wildlife agency in the past (also in raptors). I don't know if "outdoors people" are getting more rare, but there don't seem to be many around. Could be, as Reid suggests, those particular genes are not much in need these days.

I'd love to hear more about the hacking. How about a guest post?

Anonymous said...

Matt, Patrick, Steve - I know you all for different reasons (and have learned of you mostly through the internet) and enjoy your blogs tremendously - I appreciate this thread as I see similar things in it's infancy where I teach elementary school.

To me it seems like there are two different roads. Pop culture - and then there is the road I often see with some of the southern born kids here in NC. Their families have an outdoor hunting/ fishing tradition - and those children carry on that tradition. Often it seems that these kids are more grounded and aren't searching so much for their identities.

On the other hand, I fear that many from the urban and suburban environments will never learn what it means to sit and watch and wait for things to unfold - but there are still some in the country who will sit for hours - days in a deer stand for the perfect shot. I have a nephew in upstate NY who (at 14) got his first buck last year with a bow. He shot it, then tracked it through the woods before finally finding it hidden in a thicket.

I know there is no place he would rather be.

My boys - young, about the same age as Matt's girls - would give their left leg to go camping or fishing - or just to catch birds in our little starling trap out back.

I look at kids like these and I think - It'll be okay.

Thanks for writing guys - It is heartening to see that there are other people out there who think the same way that I do.


Steve Bodio said...

Lauren's additions fascinate me. When I was a hacksite attendant -- God, thirty years ago!-- for the P- Fund on Mount Tom in Massachusetts I did have books and a journal, but that was it, and I didn't read much (!-- those that know me will understand the exclamation point) when the weather was good, birds were up, and "stuff" was likely to happen-- though action was a long time coming most days. One fell into kind of a meditative state, watching and often not thinking at all-- just wide awake. Hunter's "trance"? (Neither word works well but the term has been used).

Of late I have been too computer- tied, too house- tied (friends like Matt and Lauren know the transport problems), too much "sit and think", too much "sit and drink". I need the fall and the field. Anybody know the Jeffers poem that has the line "I need to go down to the mighty Sur rivers.."?

Are you still planning to visit, Lauren?

Anonymous said...

Why thank you Steve and Matt for your comments. 'Hunters trance', that's it. Meditatively waiting for the periodic eruption of activity--sinking back into the primitive corners of the mind. Just the other day, during a slow afternoon, a passage female peregrine tore through the sky after an aplomado and, missing the aplo as it angled swiftly, plowed into a hackberry not 15 feet from me! I couldn't believe it; I'd never seen a wild peregrine before.

Watching them start out, hardly able to capture a buzzing dragonfly, its amazing they refine their skills as quickly as they do. Now the falcons are dividing lark bunting flocks when powering in for the kill and making low accipitrine attempts on scaled quail.

Interestingly, in Chihuahua, the wild aplos learn to follow coyotes through the fields, chasing any birds the animal might happen to flush. Out here, one of the P-Fund biologists has a rat terrier that he flies with a merlin. After running the dog at our site for a few days, the aplos would follow the terrier and stoop any sparrows he flushed into the open. It was like hawking in the off season.

I’d love to do a guest post Matt. I’ve got a few good photos—but my internet connection will be sporatic for the next week.

You bet I'm still planning to visit, Steve (Thursday). My departure date for Glasgow is September 5th, and there is still much to discuss. Believe me, your not alone in that growing restlessness for cold weather and keen hawks.

Matt Mullenix said...

DOUG: I'm encouraged by your post and hope my view (and probably Reid's) reflects my surroundings (ie., large university campus in the state captial) and not the nature of things everywhere. I know there are still plenty of country kids around Southeast La.

My town, Baton Rouge, is "almost rural" compared to many metro areas, but it has grown exponentially in the last 15 years. And now, after Katrina and Rita, it is the largest city in the state and populated with a much higher percentage of longtime urbanites (New Orleans transplants). The nature of this place has changed in the last year, and I don't expect the old place to return.

LAUREN: Please share those photos and some notes from the field! That's right down our alley here.

Anonymous said...

Well, I just have to add my own comments. I am also in the university system (working on my masters in wildlife sciences at Texas A&M-Kingsville).

I am the youngest of 3 brothers. My father is an avid outdoorsman and an insatiable reader. All 3 of us kids were raised the same (atleast I think so) however, my two brothers are definately not appreciative of nature, wildlife, and literature and prefer urban living and the "fast" lifestyle. Why is it that I enjoy reading, nature, falconry, hunting, backpacking, rock climbing, etc?

On another note. Texas A&M-Kingsville is a relatively small campus (about 10,000 students) in a small city of 25,000 people. It is surrounded by the King Ranch and "nature at a price". I helped with an undergraduate "Big Game Ecology" Field Trip last year. We were away for just a weekend, sleeping in wonderful quarters, and ate delicious meals (nowhere near roughing it). However, at each stop of the van atleast 60% of the "wildlife biology" students had to call somebody from their cell phone. I could not believe these people could not spend one weekend, much less one hour away from their cellular connections. Ofcourse I had my cell phone with me, but turned it off the minute we left campus.

Matt Reidy

Matt Mullenix said...

Hey Matt: Thanks for your great note. I can certainly attest to your outdoor enthusiasms. :-) I didn't know you had any sibs; glad you got the wild-type genes!