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Hawk Migration

July 15th, 2017 by jomo

Vast numbers of large birds circle and soar in the sky, all drifting steadily north or south, depending on the season. They spiral in updrafts and thermals, gaining altitude: at some point they disengage from one upward conveyor and sail for another.

I have been privileged to see hawks migrating twice, both times in the Spring in Central Texas. It is truly awesome and thrilling.

I was in college the first time. Returning to my house just outside of town in the afternoon, I walked to the edge of a ravine and just stared mesmerized. Hawks filled the sky in all directions, both low and so high that they were only specks, all sliding north.

In a while, one of my housemates arrived and came to stand beside me. He too watched dumbfounded for a short time, and then said “I’ve gotta go get my gun!”

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July 13th, 2017 by jomo

It’s been about 37 months since I last posted anything on this blog. Two things motivated me to write something now.

The first was writing a letter to a friend of almost sixty years on her birthday. I didn’t really have anything to say: I just maundered on about buying a leaf blower and the health of a pet, but I found that I enjoyed doing it – I enjoyed the writing.

The second thing was the visit from an old friend of about fifty years. He has saved letters and ephimera (a good librarian word) through the years and has recently been curating his collection. He had a letter from me written in 1971 or 72, and he brought me a copy of it. It was written in a brown ink italic script and was nice to look at. I used an Osmiroid calligraphic pen and liked to write stuff just as a graphic exercise, much like drawing a picture. The text was nothing special: a little group of us had moved to the Missouri Ozarks and were living rather primitively – I passed on news and random observations. I told him a bit about our neighbors and some local history. And I know, from looking at it and reading it today, that I enjoyed doing it.

And I have enjoyed doing this. I hope that you have enjoyed reading it.

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“NYPD Blue” v. “The Shield”

June 17th, 2014 by jomo

What separates these two shows but the width of the continent? I didn’t watch either of them on a regular basis when they were aired, but now I have been streaming them on Amazon.

“NYPD Blue” has complex characters that develop as the season(s) progress. In fact, the crime stories that they are involved with become secondary to and supportive of the development of the principal characters.

“The Shield” plays as an effort to make a sociopath with a badge a sympathetic character. I see that it lasted for several seasons, and that puzzles me. I’m not a fan of horror movies, and this show, I feel, fits into that category.

So, I’ve finished with “The Shield” after 5+ episodes, but I’m into the 2nd season of “NYPD Blue.” However, I must say that they are both just TV shows (but at least there are now no ads on them).

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Moon towers

February 13th, 2014 by jomo

Online this AM was a story about Austin’s moon towers, and that reminded me of something.

Cactus Pryor was a very well-known media personality in Austin, working his whole life for KTBC radio and TV (he died in 2011). Among the various programs he did was one which dealt with his reminiscences of growing up in Austin.

As a guest on that program one day he had a fellow who had fallen from the moontower at 9th and Guadalupe and survived. The tower is about 150′ tall, and the boy had climbed it, but slipped and fell. He plunged down inside of the triangular lattice support structure, bouncing from side to side so that he never achieved the velocity that free fall would have produced. His whole body was bruised and bones were broken, but he survived.

That had happened in the early 1930s, and it quickly became a schoolyard legend for Cactus and his schoolmates. Decades later Cactus still remembered the story, did some research, found the fellow still living in Austin, and had him on the show.

As I recall, the fellow was rather reticent, and Cactus had to work to draw forth his memories of the event. But Cactus was at his best, because he was speaking to one of his childhood heroes.

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February 1st, 2014 by jomo

One of the things I did during my putting-meat-on-the-table life was film (and video) titles. In the 60s, 70s, less-in-the-80s and still-less-in-the-90s, productions required titles shot on film and transferred to video. The Chyron titler, a high-end device when it debuted, obviated the use of film, and titles could be produced directly to video…one of the early tollings of the bell for my profession…

While a not-inconsiderable portion of my business, I really didn’t like doing titles: it was exacting work and critics came out of the woodwork. The images were there, more-or-less static, for everyone’s squint-eyed consideration. One job I re-shot 3 times because the client kept insisting they were crooked – they were exactly the same everytime, but on the 3rd pass he was satisfied. I shot the titles for Tobe Hooper on “Chainsaw Massacre” but since he was blowing it up to 35mm and I shot the titles on a 16mm Bolex claw pulldown, I told him that he should get them reshot in pin-registered 35 – so he took my art and had them reshot. DuArt (I think) stripped their name in (crooked), in place of my credit, and shot the credits.

The title crawl for Bob Burns’ feature (the title of which I don’t recall) went along fine ’til about half-way through, when the words went a little wonky, distorting sideways and up, and then snapping back into place and all was well the rest of the way. Perplexed, I did a dry run of a re-shoot, and found that there was one place where a corner of the artwork negative was snagging on a little edge of hardware, and then breaking free.

What got me started on this was watching some show and thinking about the current fashion in titles: KIM – Keep It Moving. No longer are titles static, but they are in constant motion, zooming or panning. Not much in the tilt category because that might cause overlapping which is confusing. And the worst thing for titles to be is confusing.

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Double Deuce

January 30th, 2014 by jomo

The Hub City Movers were playing at the IL Club on E. 11th St. The small audience consisted of friends of the band and club regulars, I guess, who were all black since it was their part of town. I think that it was Jimmy Gilmore fronting, with Jerry Barnett on drums and Charley Sauer on bass…there was probably a lead guitar and maybe a sax player (Ed Vizard?) – about 50 years ago, things are a little foggy.

I went into the bathroom to take a leak and was standing at a urinal, staring at the wall, when the guy next to me said “small world, eh?” I looked at him and said “what?” He said “Here you are standing next to number twenty-two and you don’t even know it.”

I said “What do you mean?” “Number twenty-two, man! Double deuce! Bob Hayes!” he said.

Being a lapsed Cowboys fan in those days, the realization of what he was talking about was slow in coming. But after thinking about it a little, I decided he was just some guy shining a white fool on…but maybe not, eh?

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Roy Orbison

January 26th, 2014 by jomo

One of the good things about being a teenager who hadn’t grown
up there in Midland, Texas, in 1957 was Roy Orbison. Roy’s 1956
hit of Ooby Dooby on the Sun label, made him the local rock
and roll celebrity, although he was from out in the oil patch at
Wink, and was considered more of an Odessa-sort-of-guy. Since he
was not of the Midland oil-gentry, I felt a kindredship with him.

He had TV shows on both KMID-TV (Midland) and KOSA-TV (Odessa)
with his band, the Teen Kings: drummer, bassist, and saxophone,
with Roy on guitar. Both stations produced bland featureless sets,
with two camera setups, and TV standard shadowless lighting. Roy
hadn’t yet adopted his dark shades, and his coke bottle glasses
with the studio lights cast strange defractions of light on his
face. His throat, the source of his phenomenal range, was obviously
strange, flat and wide.

His band members were all skinny and frenetic. The drummer was a
constant blur in the background. The sax player up front was a
contortionist. But it was the bass player who balanced Roy for
focus. He was all over that upright – whacking it, humping
it, spinning it and dancing, his coattails flapping in the breeze.
(That bass player later worked for my Dad as a butcher in his
grocery store.)

I particularly remember one night (although I watched all of his
shows) over at a friend-named-Meadows’ house, as we tried to
break into his folks’ liquor stash.

Another night I was out with a fellow with music business
connections(Who Wears Short Shorts?) and we were lining our
empties up across the road and a Cadillac approached. It stopped
in front of our dead soldier barricade, reversed, did a 3-point
turnaround and left. Ray said that it was Roy. Maybe not, but we
cherish our brushes with greatness, no?

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Dog coastin’

January 21st, 2014 by jomo

Leo Tolstoi’s War and Peace is my favorite book, and I
am reading it again with even more enjoyment than before.

There is a description of hunting hares with dogs which
reminded me of going with a friend to run his dogs many
years ago.

Gail Borden Tenant was in law school at the time. He wore
a white suit with a string tie and a panama hat. He had two
greyhounds. We went some distance out Webberville Road,
then turned off to the south.

We came to a long fenced arena perhaps 80 or 100 yards
long, maybe 35 wide. Cars were parked around the outside
of the fence. We were the only white folks there, but everyone
seemed to know Gail, and called him “The Judge,” as in “Hyah
come da Judge.” Many people had greyhounds (maybe some
borzois) on leashes and their attention was directed toward
the arena.

The far end of the arena was a corrugated tin wall separating
the arena from a brushy pen behind. In the tin wall were some
openings at ground level, about one foot square. At the near
end of the arena was a wood and hardware cloth box about
1 foot square and 12 feet long, divided into 10 or 12 sections
by sliding wooden dividers. In each section there was a live
jack rabbit. About 30 or 40 feet in front of that chute was a
line across the arena and at one end of the line was stationed
a man with a flag.

Three dog handlers would station themselves and their dogs
in line with the front of the holding chute, where another official
prepared to raise the door, which would release the rabbit in the
front section. The flagman raised his flag, the doorman raised the
door, and the rabbit bolted for the far end of the arena. When it
crossed the line, the flagman snapped his flag down and the dog
handlers let their dogs go.

Greyhounds running are magnificent – but so are jack rabbits.
Sometimes a rabbit made it through one of the holes in the fence
at the far end, but more often one of the dogs would catch up
with it, causing the rabbit to swerve away, into the path of the
trailing dogs. Then there would be a cloud of dust and tumble of

The dog that turned the rabbit was the winner of the race. The
owner of the dog got whatever winnings came from his bets on the
race, and he got the rabbit.

As we were leaving, someone called out to Gail “Whatchoo gonna do
wi’dat rabbit, Judge?” Gail answered “Why, I’m gonna give it to you,
you pretty thing.”

The folks there called it “dog coastin’.” Historically, it’s known as
“coursing” and was a sport of royalty. And it was hare coursing that
Tolstoi described, but it was dog coastin’ that I saw.

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September 26th, 2012 by jomo

All of these ideas go through my head that I could/should write about, but then I move on to other things since writing is not one of my primary focuses. But today I was writing stuff to fulfill the requirements for Faces of Austin, a program to showcase short films by Austin filmmakers, one of which I most certainly am and have been for decades now, so that put me in kind of a writing mode.

I have always identified my films as having been produced in Austin. I wonder if that has had any effect in helping Austin become the Mecca for creativity that it has become? Probably not – or certainly not very much.

In the early ‘70s I built a great big barn-like house around an old silo in the country. Someone later told me that they picked up a hitchhiker two or three states away who was headed down to see this house that some hippy had built around a silo. I guess that was my place – I like to think it was, and that my effort had impressed others enough that they had told people about it and word had spread that it was something worth seeing. But I never met that traveler and I sold the place and it burned to the ground one winter’s day…there were some design elements that I hadn’t worked out. We learn as we go along, eh?

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Sunday Funnies

July 1st, 2012 by jomo

This morning when I glanced at the Sunday Comics section of the American-Statesman, I remembered “Uncle” Roy’s Sunday morning radio show on KTSM in El Paso in the 1940s and 50s. He read the comic strip captions while his listening audience followed along at home, looking at the pictures. I remember that he had a wide range of voice characterizations. Listening to Uncle Roy’s show on Sunday was as much a part of my routine as going to church.

As I began to write this…note? little memory bit? whatever…I used the web to run a search to see if there was something out there about Uncle Roy, and I found this in memoriam piece – which made my fond memories fonder. He really was as nice a guy as he sounded on the radio.

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