Posts Tagged ‘Steve Martin’

The Big Year

October 18, 2011

The Big Year is in movie theaters everywhere now. Well, maybe not everywhere. I understand that movies aren’t big in Somalia right now and the little town in New Mexico where I grew up no longer has a movie theater, but aside from minor exceptions like that, the movie is playing everywhere. And why not? It has Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson in it and it’s a major movie about birding.

You read that correctly, a popular, well-funded, star-studded movie about birding. Based on the book by the same title by Mark Obmascik, the movie chronicles the unofficial competition between three men after a non-existent award for the most bird species seen in a single year in North America. Some human interest comedy has been added for the movie, but otherwise, it is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the book.

Of course, as usual in these matters, the book is better. And, if you live in Albuquerque, you can win an autographed copy for free. All you have to do is listen to KHFM (95.5), our local classical radio station and call in when you hear the ad for The Fat Finch. Not only can you win a copy of the book, you can also win a gift certificate for use in the store.

The birds are mostly accurate, even though a few are digital versions of their real-life counterparts and the flip book of birds at the end of the movie, during the credits, are the best reason to sit still until the lights come up. And this is a movie where the jokes are about non-birders instead of birders.

But the best reason to see the movie and to see it on the big screen is to reward all the people involved in it. Here is an attempt by Hollywood to show us something of the wild world and why we need to get out in it from time to time. Here, from the New York Times review of the movie is a sentence I wish I had written:

Birds are evidence of the miraculous and protean work of evolution and, more important, emblems of wildness in an overcivilized world.

It’s good to see a movie about them. And, after you’ve seen it, you’ll want to read the book again, either for the first time or for a re-reading. Then you’ll want to put on a good pair of hiking shoes, grab a pair of binoculars and go see some wildness.

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Here are links to two reviews, one from serious birders at Cornell and the one from the New York Times.

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PS. We’ve been away awhile and are glad to be back. Thanks for staying with us. This post is the 400th in the blog’s history and we just recently passed 800,000 views. Thanks to all our readers.

Prize Winning Bird Photos

November 30, 2009

Last week, ravaged by pink eye, I lay in bed, scarce caring whether I lived or died.  Only Hilda, my toothless old Mother, bothered to bring me food and quinine.  When, at last, my strength began to return, Hilda brought me my computer.  With her old, red gums clashing she told me she had found me wildlife pictures to aid in my recovery, just like she used to do when I was a child and came down with the scurvy.  Mine was a poor childhood, without even Vitamin C to fortify me for the twenty-mile uphill trudge — both ways — to school through the driving blizzards.  Often I was lost for weeks at a time.

In the days of renewed vigor following my illness, I learned from the computer of the results of two wildlife photography contests which, with my increasing energy I am now able to tell you about by weakly click-clicking away on this keyboard.

In the first contest, run by the Museum of Natural History in far off London, a place I could only dream about during my poverty-encrusted childhood out on the endless prairies, Rob Palmer of Colorado, USA, won for this photo of a Bald Eagle snatching a Red-winged Blackbird out of the air. We’ve told you before about Palmer who is one of our favorite photographers of birds.

Rob Palmer

Palmer’s photo wasn’t the only bird photo that won a prize.  Several others were also winners. Here is one from Finland, a place almost as cold and dark in the winter as my childhood home.  That is a wolf approaching some carrion, driving Ravens and Magpies from his path. I remember the wolves howling as they tried to run me down when I plodded home from school during dark evenings.

Seppo Pollanen

I often shared my childhood home in the cliffs above the Yukon River with Peregrine Falcons.  Shivering there in the cold, I wished they would share their kills with me, but they never did, so I existed on rutabagas. Over in England a single Peregrine can cause panic among thousands of starlings, as in this photo.  The falcon is out of the photo on the left but you can see the wave of starlings departing.

Danny Green

Another prize winner, this one from France, reminds me of my childhood home deep in the Everglades.  Every so often I could take my eyes off the water-moccasin infested swamp long enough to glance into the trees where I would be rewarded with a glimpse of a woodpecker.  Like this photograph, that was long ago, when the world itself was still only in black and white, not like now with all the pretty colors.

David Hackel and Michel Poinsignon

Finally, my strength begins to wane — I’m not the man I once was you know — I leave you with another of the London prize winners.  This one doesn’t have a bird in it at all, but I include it because it reminds me of the jackals on the African savannah that used to hunt me as I slogged across the endless Serengeti on my way to school each day.

Lorenz Andreas Fischer

If I live long enough, we’ll be back next time with the winners of the other photo contest.
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Congratulations to Rob Palmer. And, here is a hint about the next contest we’re going to cover; Palmer won that one too.

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Sharp-eyed readers will notice the shameless plagiarism of E.B. White in the first three and a half sentences.  Most of that was lifted from his essay, “Fierce Pajamas” which you can find in The New Yorker book of the same name at page 7.  I stole the idea of simply lifting somebody else’s sentences — just to get started, you understand — from Steve Martin’s “Writing is Easy!” in the same book.


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