Venue of Vultures

Turkey vulture warming itself in the sun.
photo from

On the way to a walk by the river, I saw a venue of turkey vultures trooping around on the banks of the Hocking. I thought at first they were geese. There are a lot of geese here, as everywhere. But geese don't have red heads, and geese do not have a 7-foot wing span. There were perhaps 12 or 15 birds. Most of them were hunched in a familiar vulture pose, but 4 or 5 of them had their wings fully extended to catch the sunshine. (Venue is the collective word for vultures on the ground, according too the kind people of TrekOhio, who also note that the Latin name for this bird, "Cathartes aura, means either golden purifier or purifying breeze." Let us respect the carrion eaters for they purify our world.)

On the walk itself, the only birds I saw were geese, robins, and grackles. Is it an illusion that when I was a kid Canada geese and robins were truly migratory? I recall the wonder of the first robin of spring. Was I just not paying attention all winter? I know the living patterns of geese have changed, but whenever I try to research robins, I find info that says "some winter over." There was point along the walk where there are 5 small trees planted a few feet apart. Each tree had a neat round of rich brown mulch at its foot. Each round of mulch had a plump robin posing with its rusty breast feather glowing in the bright winter sun.

One more bird thing: This article on "raptor porn" came across my field yesterday. It is about the indiscriminate use of the cry of the red-tailed hawk in movies and tv to signal "wildness," with no connection the bird itself. The writer laments this as lazy filmmaking but more than that as a reduction of this sound of a real creature to a symbol of a concept which no longer has a basis in reality.

Somehow this connects to the purifying vultures in my mind -- the need for us to (verbs fail me -- connect? respect? understand? -- I do not like these verbs) the role and reality of animals) but that is a subject for a more extended meditation.

Reading: Started Teacher Man. What a great voice McCourt has.

Writing: Working on a scene - continuation of what I read at the Four and Twenty Blackbirds - with material I generated during an exercise I did while sitting in on a workshop Alexandra Fuller did with some of our students in the fall.

Also, oddly, a poem.

Dinner: We went out to my sister's fiance's family's land for a hayride and a bonfire. We had gluhwein made in a feuerzangenbowle over the Coleman stove (translation: warm wine over which sugar and rum have been set a aflame and allowed to drip into the wine) and homemade deer burgers.

Soundtrack: Z has been singing in endless loop "Toad Away." It's a Firesign Theatre's song to the tune of "First Noel." This is David's fault.

Random thing: The more I think about Dallas Buyers Club the more I am irritated with it. The acting is all superb, and the character it is portraiting is an interesting guy, but:

First, as a writer, I am disappointed with the degree to which all other characters, with the possible exception of Jared Leto's character, Rayon (a very well-portrayed but maybe too easily tragic drag queen), are not really characters at all. They just exist to highlight different aspects of the main character.

Second, this writing choice necessarily means no women characters, no gay characters, no Texas macho men characters that actually have any substance or nuance. Griffin Dunne maybe gets the farthest with Dr. Vass.

Third, this means that the self-aware gay slurs (we know we're gay bashing, but it is historically and culturally accurate so it is ok) that happen all over this movie gets uncomfortable and tiresome to me after a while.

I could go on. It is good that macho straight gay-hating cowboys also got AIDS and had to come to terms with vicious stereotyping. It is good that they fought fights to treat the disease. Can we make movies about them that have women that are more than tits and gay guys who have personality beyond their gayness?

(Loyal readers might like to know I saw 7 hawks on the drive down here last week.)