Monday, October 14, 2019

Podcasts?

Confessional time folks: I've been wondering for a long time if I should do podcasts. I've had complete strangers tell me I should get into radio. Apparently I've got the voice and face for radio, heh. I've been really shy about trying my hand it heavily because it involves me working with programs that I'm entirely unfamiliar with. Me trying to learn new programs is like a neanderthal trying to figure out a Chinese puzzle box. It's confusing, pathetic, and usually ends up with a smashed, smoking, flaming box.

But I've had a few programs suggested to me, including this one here: https://screencast-o-matic.com/plans

Called Screenomatic. Have any of you used this contraption? Is it any good? Can a borderline neo-luddite like myself work it? And do ya'll think I should get into doing podcasts?

Thoughts and advice would be much appreciated!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal

I just now finished the premiere episode of Genndy Tartakovsky's new series, Primal. For those of you who don't know, Genndy made quite a few of the best known cartoons out there from Dexter's Laboratory, to The Power Puff Girls, and did a great stint with Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a two parter, where his distinctive style stood out dramatically even to my unpracticed eye. His best known creation and one of my all time favorite things ever, Samurai Jack. If you haven't heard of any of these, please look them up. You won't be disappointed.

Samurai Jack's fifth season seems to have kindled his bloodlust however. That season was nothing short of emotionally brutal, putting our hero through gutwrenching episodes of suicidal hallucinations, self loathing and violence that left me pretty shocked. Yet it was one of the most emotionally packed animated things I'd ever seen, and I awaited each and every new episode with breathless anticipation.

And now we have Primal, with a caveman put in a setting that seems reminiscent of old caveman movies such as One Million Years BC, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth and others, where man lives side by side with primitive and vicious beasts. From the first frame I knew it would be a home run, and it hasn't in any way failed in my expectations. In fact, it's matched it entirely.

Twenty minutes, without a single word of dialogue, I repeatedly found my flesh crawling with goosebumps, deep and primitive emotions roiling within me, and several times my jaw dropped in astonishment at the level of violence I beheld. And considering that I can watch movies like Predator or Robocop without batting an eye should give an indication of just how jaded I am. This really struck me. But it's not gratuitous. It feels appropriate for the setting, where life is always balanced on a knife's edge, everything either killing or being killed, no in between. If any show was ever worthy of the simple title Primal, this is undoubtedly it.

In fact, it's neck and neck with one of my other favorite movies, Turok: Son of Stone in terms of raw brutality, but even more impressively in quiet themes and imagery. Despite the sheer violence, this one episode is breathtakingly beautiful. Every frame, every movement, absolutely everything oozes with surreal beauty that has to be seen to be believed. And this imagery serves to make dialogue completely unnecessary. Everything is shown through visuals, through expression. Our main character, the caveman, doesn't even have a name, and yet we feel so deeply for him in such a short period of time.

His physique is not what we're accustomed to for heroes. He's not clean shaven, lean and handsome. No, he's on that border between man and simian with thick tree-trunk like arms, legs and torso, massive canines and oily black unkempt hair. His brow sits over his smoldering eyes like a cliff of granite, lips frequently turned down in a deep frown. While his musculature might not be the vacuum sealed gym jockey we usually get, he's got the build of a hairless gorilla and strength to match. His expressions run a wide gamut, and while most of them are rage or smoldering sullenness, there is such a variety juxtaposed with other expressions that he defies ordinary description. Yet contrasting his brutish behavior and appearance is an wonderfully tender and soulful side to him that surfaces when things are calm. He perhaps doesn't engage in deep thought, he clearly has his internal struggles that radiate out from him that would do the most seasoned actor proud.

It's a rare talent that Genndy possesses, taking things that are so simple and fleshing them out in such a way that they seem far greater and more powerful than you might guess. In such a short time I find myself wanting to either fight by this caveman's side or give him a comforting hug. And he's just a caveman! It's like Genndy distilled the extreme sides of humanity and boiled them down to their most essential elements: Rage, the will to survive, sorrow, but also love, joy in simple pleasures and innocence. All of these are whittled down to their most base components and injected into this very simple character, somehow managing to make him come across as something entirely new.

And the dinosaurs! While maybe not based in real species, these are clearly more in the realm of fantasy, they seemingly accomplish the impossible. They are horrifying, bloodthirsty beasts that will snap you in half with blood-crusted jaws if given a tenth of a chance, focused only on satiating their rumbling stomachs, and yet at the same time are real living, breathing and feeling animals with personalities and body language that seems almost more real than real animals. The pain they go through is palpable.

The animation is nothing short of staggering. At times it's unnaturally static, almost like it's a still image, only very subtle movements and the audio cluing us in to the fact that it's a video that hasn't frozen. But when things move it's imbued with a ferocious momentum that pulls you along like a runaway freight train. The fighting has impact. You can practically feel the sinew and bone being torn asunder. Contrast this with the backgrounds that are beyond gorgeous. I pray that a book is released just with stills and concept art of this world. I would buy it in a heartbeat. The beauty and depth of the environments are simple, and yet feel deep and detailed. I could get lost in these colors and primeval woods. I could just stare at them for hours, letting my minds eye go into journeys through this portals of pen and parchment. It's nothing short of magical. It accomplishes so much in such a short time. The efficiency of this is to be even further admired when one realizes that the calm bits do nothing to kill the pacing. Aficionados of animation far more qualified than myself will find nothing lacking when it comes to analysis and praise.

With such a simple and perhaps silly premise, Primal already proves to be infinitely better than it has any right to be, and I mean that in the best of ways. Genndy Tartakovsky has somehow been given a few eggs, flower and a stone pot, and from these humble ingredients somehow produced an animated banquet that satiates even the greediest of gluttons, and yet leaves you craving for more.

Had this been a simple twenty minute movie, it would have already become an all time favorite for me and countless other dinosaur fans. And yet this is to be part of a show! I can't wait to see what comes next. You owe it to yourselves to see it. Set aside half an hour, get some snacks and treat yourself to this spectacle.

Here's the link: https://bit.ly/2pFszct

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Where Did The Magic Go?

Man oh man, I don't know what's going on, but I don't like it. In the last four months I've bashed out ninety thousand words for my rough draft. Ninety thousand! That's four zeroes, and I've got another thirty thousand to go. Now, once I hit 90K I decided to give myself a little break. After all, a lot had been happening what with my family having a major upheaval and myself going through a minor mental breakdown. Who wouldn't crack a bit under that kind of stress?

But as this month is just slithering by, I've noticed I'm not quite the same. I'm not playing games, watching movies, and most terrifying of all, not really reading! What's going on? I go through depressive spells, sure, but this feels different. Is is part of my age wearing on me? A shift in weather? It's honestly rather frightening to me. I haven't been digging through my massive treasure trove of books, sifting for delicious historical tidbits to fire my imagination. Nor have I been scribbling writing ideas down in my ever bulging notebooks for future stories.

It's almost as if some of the color has faded from my world, where once all was bright and shining, radiant with life and intrigue. Now it feels bland and tasteless, the colors muted and sounds dull. Nor am I alone, as I've noticed a multitude of friends and family across the country feeling something similar, so it's not just me. I certainly hope that it doesn't last.

I want to rediscover my excitement again! I want to build epic worlds once more, create fun characters and epic perils for them to face and overcome.

As a writer, I'm certainly not played out. Nope! I feel instead that I'm steadily getting better. This current story will be like nothing I've ever done before, and the next will be plenty different too. I'm fairly bursting with creative concepts. I'm thinking of delving into fantasy influenced not from traditional Western European mythology, but instead the rich cultural heritage of the East. I've read The Ramayana, the epic tale of Rama, his beloved brother Lakshmana and Rama's dazzling wife Rita who is kidnapped by the King of Lanka and the demon hordes, Ravana! What rich and beautiful tales India possesses, and yet so untapped!

Or some of the exciting, if explicit, stories of ancient Persia and the Arab territories. After all, Ali Baba and Aladdin had their roots in such stories as Arabian Nights!

And I've begun working through classical Chinese literature with the epic tale of Journey Into The West with the Monkey King Son Wukong and his escort mission of the holy scriptures across the land. It's a huge story, one that can't be taken in a small sitting, but it is an absolute treasure trove of inspiration and lore, its influence today being profound. Although adding to its charm is, admittedly, just how flawed and foolish Son Wukong is at times! If you've played D&D, some of the antics in these stories will seem familiar!

African mythology has been, unforgivably to my collector's mindset, underrecorded and exposed, but that's not frakking stopping me from delving into it and pulling out my own take on it too. Blast it, it's amazing and I don't know why more people aren't looking into it! It's like seeing a fountain of bacon and nobody else is even glancing at it. It's madness I tell you, madness! ... What was I walking about again?

I hope to draw from these rich histories and create new tales. It seems criminal to me that this hasn't been done before! Maybe it's my strange, eccentric nature, but I always found Western European mythology to be kind of stale compared to other mythologies out there.

Even now I have two ideas, one of possibly a thief in the glittering deserts hearing of a warlord possessing a statue that miraculously produces gold, and his purse lusts after it, but after penetrating inside the warlord's stronghold, things take a turn as he faces a very different situation than what he imagined. Will he fetch a king's ransom in gold? Or will he find that's what his heart is made out of? Okay, yeah, that last part is cheesy enough to repel the French, but I'm too tired to care.

The other is a deposed African king returning from exile as a child to reclaim his birthright, but his usurper doesn't give him war. No! Instead he offers a deal: If he can complete a series of challenges, he will hand the kingdom over, no need for bloodshed or war. But if he looses, he will instead give up his birthright and serve his usurper. The challenge is accepted, but uh oh! These challenges aren't straightforward at all. In fact, they're meant to be impossible! Instead of muscle and sharpened steel, our hero will have to use a healthy dose of cunning to fulfill these challenges. For example, how is he to get a cow-hide shield with six different colors? No cow ever bore such an elaborate display of colors before! How will he work through that fix? Where there's a will, there's a way!

Okay deep breath.

I'm still cracking on stories for Primal Frontier too. I'm working on a short, maybe even a few that I'll bundle into a tiny anthology, that I'll put up for free. Give the audience a taste of what's to come, eh?

Even stranger, I'm thinking of doing a comedy based on Japanese kaiju films! And yet another, influenced from black and white 50's B movies, and others still jumping out at me! And I'm still working on this first draft of a xenoarchaeology treasure hunt on another planet in this steampunk setting!

And yet, at the moment, I feel like all the magic has gone out of me. To be blunt, it sucks harder than a starving aquarium catfish. All the energy has fled from me, leaving me this mentally vacant wastrel simply moving from one criminally large bag of M&M's to the next, aimless and feeble.

I really hope that this is just a mood phase and that it will pass soon. I want to throw myself into my work again, chewing through volumes of literature like they're Skittles, pounding out pages of ideas until my keyboard cries for mercy, and blitzing through games and movies until I'm left craving more of those silly Mill Creek mega movie packs. Yes, I'm a movie masochist with those flicks that won't sell individually even at the dollar store, but at least in those I can imagine making better ones.

And wow, this has turned out to be a tonally inconsistent mess, I apologize for that, but hopefully you get what I mean. I want to feel that magic again! The magic of building worlds for other to explore and have adventures! Here's hoping I feel it again soon!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Climate Change Crazy?

Climate change stuff is at it again, with people apparently walking out of school and offices out of protest of... um... the climate changing. I guess this is entirely our fault, even if climate change has been a geological and planetary constant? And if they walk out in protest, who is suffering? I mean, I know protests are a popular thing these days, but I can't say I see what they're actually accomplishing. Who do they want to handle this? And more importantly, how?

Do they really expect the US Government to accomplish anything? They don't really build or accomplish much, instead mostly trying to restrain other things. They aren't efficient. For context on how even the best branch, the military, suffers from bureaucracy and ineptitude, watch Pentagon Wars. It's a great comedy, but actually hits the nail on the head of how budgets explode, projects go on for way longer than they should, and misaligned priorities can sink even the best of projects.

Anyway, the government is hardly the one you should turn to in order to supposedly solve all the worlds problems. Other people seem to think that the corporations should fix the world, like a bunch of protesters demanding people boycott Amazon until they put out the fires in the actual Amazon rain forest. Now don't get me wrong, I love this green little mud ball we inhabit and I do want things to be preserved, but what makes people think Amazon can fix anything? They're an online store that ships things to people with UPS. They're a big online shopping mall. What in the world makes anyone think they have the capability to put out a giant forest fire? Do they secretly have a battalion of firetrucks and Protugese speaking firefighters I don't know about? Why aren't people demanding that the Brazilian government, y'know, the people actually in charge of the Amazon, do a better job? And since when is it the job of corporations to go into other countries and do the jobs that their own governments are too incompetent to do? Do we really want corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, GM, and others running foreign countries?

I don't!

I guess people want them to donate tons of money, which makes some sense. But again, donate money to do what exactly? The mere presence of money accomplishes nothing. It has to be directed efficiently and intelligently to attain a specific goal. The goal from climate change protesters seems to be "Stop climate change!" Um... okay... how? We need distinct and reasonable goals, otherwise we're just driving around in circles burning time and money. Nobody seems to really have a good answer. These same people seem frustrated that billionaires donated money to rebuild Notre Dame, but not fighting forest fires. Well, repairing Notre Dame is a very straightforward objective. We know how it looks, what it should look like, and simply use that money to hire construction workers to make it look how it did before. It's also in the middle of a prosperous country's capital with lots of workers and resources.

Brazil has a high murder rate, corruption and a lack of infrastructure in the Amazon by the very nature of it being the slagging Amazon. There aren't exactly tons of good roads. There's tons of rivers and tributaries to traverse, which means you can't get firetrucks out there, who are also kinda needed in the towns where people live. I haven't looked into it, but knowing how lots of South America works, there's also probably some bandits and revolutionaries running around who might enjoy taking potshots at government employees. Dumping money into the Brazilian government's lap might not fix anything, because if you've ever looked at our own government, embezzlement is a really popular trade amongst politicians.

I suppose some people want to minimize our own carbon footprint. I'm still at best suspicious about that, but okay, let's say that all climate change at the moment is solely the responsibility of humanity, and that more carbon dioxide will erode our planet and ecosystems. Well, the West is doing all that it can reasonably expected to do, besides sinking our entire industry system. You know who isn't pulling their weight? The Chinese. They are a communist government possibly subscribing to Lysenkoism who give exactly zero point zero craps about their environment. Don't believe me? They literally invented a giant ocean blender to chop up huge schools of jellyfish that were clogging the propellers on their aircraft carriers, turning them into slurry and any other oceanic life that had the poor luck to get in the way of the GI Joe level death boat. Military might is more important to them than the environment.

It doesn't matter how much the Western world cuts back on carbon emissions, we'll never make a big enough dent in it to counter the Chinese and them spewing out pollution into the air.

Well Mister Smarty Farty Cowboy, what's your solution? Glad you asked! In fact, it's a lot easier than you suspect. Plant more sodding trees. You don't need trillions of dollars, government or corporate help, or even basic competence to plant trees. In fact, there's been multiple groups that have been planting millions of trees in very short time frames. People in India supposedly planted some 50 million in one day! Even if the real number is a tenth of that, since the number might skew, that's an impressive haul for just one day's work! Ethiopia boasts that they planted 350 million trees in twelve hours, done almost exclusively by volunteers.

According to a brief Google search, an average tree planter in British Columbia can plant 1,400 trees in a day, while an experienced hand can plant 4,000. Not bad!

I've seen other record numbers of people planting millions of trees in just one day. So why should we wait on the fat fed and greedy corporations to make the world green again? You don't need them! Imagine what us Westerners could do if we just took a week off, grabbed a bunch of shovels and planted some new groves. Trees will fight erosion, soak up all those nasty pollutants, and gives homes to our wildlife! And all we have to do is plant them! If people in India and other countries can do it, why can't you? In fact, in another article I wrote, it was found that dumping orange peels on the ground stimulated soil and plant growth like magic! So, buy a crapload of oranges, save those peels after juicing the fruit, and spread that crap all over your new groves. Or heck, gather together money and buy the peels that the orange juice folks in Florida throw out as garbage and use those as mulch. Put that stuff to work!

So get together eco warriors! Take a week off of work every few months, save a hundred dollars each, gather orange peels, then get out there and plant a few thousand trees a week! No need to protest. No need to howl at soulless corporate executives. No need to yell at regular people just trying to make ends meet. Just plant trees and the rest will work out.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sorrow and Joy

Today is an odd day for me. It's one of both sorrow and joy.

Sorrow because of the many people who lost their lives this day many years ago. Notice, amidst this climate, I didn't distinguish anything about them. I didn't say Republican or Democrat, New Yorker or any other stater, anything about race or any of that crap. They were people, living breathing human beings whose lives were tragically cut short by men bent on evil. I mourn their loss like everyone else. They were fellow Americans, human beings with lives, family, hobbies and dreams. That's the thing to remember about them.

But it's also oddly a day of joy for me because this was the day two of my baby sisters were born. They were dealt a bad hand right from birth. They had medical problems. There were other trials that I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that by all rights they shouldn't be alive, and they certainly shouldn't be happy and healthy. But they came to my family, and they were given a chance, and today now they are two of the happiest and sweetest little sprites on the face of the Earth who long ago won my heart!

So this day is one in which we must remember that we must be cautious in this dangerous world, to remember those who died from evil, but also to cherish the new life that comes into it. Every day new beautiful human beings are born, free from malice or prejudice. Innocent. They are true treasures. While we should try our best to make this world good for them, we must also take heart in knowing that they are good for the world, and each has potential we can't even dream of.

So let us mourn our losses this day, when so many lives were taken by evil men in an evil deed, but as night comes try to take those you care for in your arms and rejoice in the love of your fellow men, and especially, the pure innocence of children.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ray Harryhausen: The Lost Movies Book

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A treasure!

I consider myself to be reasonably responsible with my admittedly limited funds. I rarely go out to dinner or buy new clothing, instead doing my best to tough out rough conditions with a stiff upper lip and save my precious pennies. But then something like this comes along, and my willpower flees from me like a falcon let loose from its cage. It doesn't matter the cost. What is one less meal a day if I can feast upon a literary delight such as this?

While today it is cold and drizzling outside, I'm oblivious to the chilly wind or dripping rain. Instead I'm treading worlds long forgotten, peering into the mind and imagination of one of my greatest heroes and storytellers, Ray Harryhausen. Like a brand on a cow's flank, his works left an irremovable impression upon my mind and countless others. I could list his exploits for days! Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and one of my personal favorites, Valley of Gwangi, which inspired my own writings.

And yet as I've recently delved into the cemetery of unrealized movies, my eyes are opened with wonder at just how many things were on the drafting board but never made it to the screen! Before acquiring this print I've been going into Kong Unmade, a painstaking labor of love of ALL the Kong movies in their various forms, good and bad, and I'm astounded at the variety of stories that never got made.

And now as I sit with this book in my lap, basking in the glow of my computer screen and rain pattering outside, I'm again finding myself setting foot into other worlds which were never made. I feel almost as if I'm looking back into the cinematic fossil record, seeing creatures and worlds of pencil and paper, rubber and steel, almost given fledgling life by storytellers of yore, almost completely forgotten by the modern world. And yet, now, I am engaging in a wonderful journey through time and space, whether cinematic paleontology or archaeology is your guess, and am beholding a treasure trove of knowledge that may not have reached us until now, plumbed from old texts and basements of office filing cabinets and storage rooms of Hollywood.

I leave you now, dear readers, and hope that you too can at some point look upon this treasure of paper and ink, and be touched with at least a fraction of the wonder it holds for me!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Eskimo Marksmanship

When one hears of the Eskimos of Greenland, one normally doesn't think of expert shooters. I certainly didn't, until I happened across the great recordings of Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who in 1888 embarked on a journey across the inland ice of Greenland from East to West on skis and sleds with a small party of compatriots. Nansen proved to be a most practical and observant man, and remarkably for the time most open minded and tolerant of and even showing open admiration for those not of European lineage or culture.

Head and shoulders portrait of Fridtjof Nansen, facing half-right. He has close-cropped hair, a wide, fair moustache and is wearing a heavy fur coat.
Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian Explorer

His journey was considered by most of his fellow Europeans to be a suicidal endeavor, but lo and behold, he and his companions successfully made the traverse, but not quite in time to make the ship that was to initially take them home for the winter. They were just a tad too late, and were forced to winter in Godthaab, a small but wonderfully welcoming settlement for both European and Eskimo alike, and, seeing themselves with little else to do, amused themselves by learning to kayak and understand better the Eskimo methods of hunting and fishing.

It is here that Nansen beheld with wonder some of the capabilities of the Eskimo natives. Although he had encountered some on the Eastern coast, they had little, if any, experience with the strange Europeans and communication was impossible. Those in Godthaab however were wonderfully acclimated to Europeans and coexisted most favorably.

Now, as anyone who has ever set foot in a kayak will know, they are very temperamental and easily upset, and proved much more difficult for Nansen and his compatriots to master especially when considered that they were in the icy waters of Greenland, icy floes drifting past and at times threatening to crush their tiny craft. They of course proved to be very amusing initially to their new friends, floundering and struggling to master the kayak, which only increased Nansen's estimation of them when he saw how easily they handled them.

In his book, The First Crossing of Greenland, he comments "The Eskimo 'kayaks' were, of course, a great attraction to us strangers, and as soon as possible I possessed myself of one. The necessary balance in this narrow, crank little vessel is very difficult for a beginner to acquire. One feels as if he were swinging on a knife-edge, and it is very necessary, so to speak, to keep your hair parted well in the middle. Yet when one sees the Eskimo dancing like sea-birds on the crests of the waves the whole performance seems simply child's play."

In time however Nansen got the hang of it and took great relish in following the Eskimos on their water excursions, and it was here they he was positively flabbergasted by their marksmanship.

Nansen recites "There are not many seal about in the winter, so it does not pay to go after them for mere amusement. We found the birds better worth our attention, and the flight-shooting of the eider-duck was especially attractive. In the earlier part of the winter this generally goes on in the evenings, when the duck come flying in large or small flocks along the shore on their way into the fjords. The 'kayaks' are drawn up in a line, especially just off the promontories. It was quite exciting work to lie there in wait for the duck, and reminded me of the flight-shooting at home when the woodcock come back in the spring. One's eyes are turned southwards, whence the duck should come.

"Suddenly you see the man in the furthest canoe stoop forward and paddle away as hard as he can go, while the rest of the line meanwhile dress up to him. Then he stops, there is a moment's waiting, and then come a flash and a report, which are taken up by the next, and so follow down the line. You see a dark mass to the south of you silently skimming the water. You bring your canoe up a bit to get better into range; you put your paddle in under its strap and get your gun ready.

"By this time you can distinguish every bird. Just as they sweep by you, you let fly into the thickest part of the flock, and if you are lucky you get a couple or more to your shot. Then you load again, gather up your birds, and wait for the next flight. So you pon [?] till it is dark, the line of 'kayaks' shifting backwards and forwards just as the duck happen to fly close to or further from the shore.

"This shooting needs a considerable amount of skill, for the duck fly strongly, and a good command of your canoe is necessary if you are to keep within range and shoot tolerably straight. Many of the natives are amazingly good hands at it. The quickness with which they bring the canoe up to the point, secure the paddle, and get the gun to the shoulder, as well as the accuracy of their aim, even if they have only one bird to cover, is enough to secure the admiration of the best of shots, especially as the little boats in which they sit are the whole time bobbing up and down upon the waves."

This can be considered nothing short of masterful shooting! To those who happen to be unfamiliar with shooting in its forms, stability is but one of the many keys of marksman ship. The position you take, they way you stroke the trigger, even your breathing and heartbeat can throw off a shot completely. And that's on solid ground! Even shotgunning, which fires a cluster of small pellets that can cover a wide area, requires swift reflexes and a durable shoulder. Now imagine performing this in a kayak while ice flows and swells toss your tiny craft willy nilly, back and forth, while also trying to not upset yourself. The expertise required not just in shooting but in boating quickly makes itself vividly evident.

And yet Nansen found even more of these magnificent feats among these people who he admits without reservation he became extremely fond of and held in the highest regard.

To quote "The sport I cultivate most here is eider-duck shooting. One of the best places is a small group of islands known as Imerigsok. Far out on the sea side of these birds are especially abundant, but here there is always a swell and the current runs fast, so that for a new hand the shooting is difficult. But on the whole it is the best form of sport that I have had yet in the 'kayak.' Here the method is different from that practiced in Godthaab, as we paddle about to find our duck. When you catch sight of them you work well off to the windward before you bear down on them. As a rule you cannot get very close in, but as they must rise against the wind they are generally forced to fly by you within shooting range.

"But the thing is to get your canoe into the right position to give you a shot. As the 'kayak' does not give one much turning room, a man who does not shoot from his left shoulder cannot cover his right side, but must be content with the straight ahead or left side shots. So, as the duck rise, and you see which direction they are going to take, you swing the canoe round if necessary, fix the paddle, slip off your right mitten off, fetch out the gun and bring it to your shoulder; but if you are to have any chance of dropping your bird this must all be done in an instant. And if there is any sea running you must be so thoroughly at home in the canoe that you can handle your gun with as much certainty as if you were ashore, to say nothing of keeping your balance at the moment of firing.

"Many of the Kangek men are masters at all this, and I have seen them, in a heavy sea, bring their half-score of birds down without a miss. Now and then I have met out at sea a man of the name of Pedersuak-that is to say, "the great Peter- and we have generally gone on in company. Sometimes we have tried our skill together, but as he is an excellent shot at these birds I have come off second best, much to his amusement and satisfaction.

"One day when we were together two duck came sweeping by us down the wind. They were out of range for me, but were making for Pedersuak. I shouted to him and he saw them but quietly let them pass him. I could not understand what he meant, but presently he raised his gun and brought both down. He explained to me afterwards that he had only waited to get them in line before he fired. I thought it was simply a fluke, but we had not paddled far before two more duck came by, and still better within my companion's reach. He fixed his paddle and held his gun ready, but did not fire. Then, when they were a long way past, the report came and both birds fell. I have often witnessed this performance, and have even see three birds brought down at one shot in the same way."

Skeet and bird shooters beware of envy! Again, to those uninitiated, hitting one fast moving target with both feet planted firmly on the ground with a scattergun is good. To hit two with one shot while on the water, or even three, is absolutely spectacular! And if this weren't enough, these men weren't armed with modern shotguns. They had muzzle loaders! Muzzle loaders, which have free powder and shot, are notoriously and laboriously hard to load. One must pour free powder down the muzzle, get the bullet and patch, ram them both down the barrel, replace the ramrod which can be bloody long and cumbersome, and then place finer powder in the flash pan mounted on the side. If you're lucky, you have one with caps. Legendary is this process. And that's on land. And they can easily be disabled if the powder gets wet from rain. Now, contemplate loading in this manner on the ocean and keeping your powder dry!

"These folk have only muzzle-loaders, but they use heavy charges, and shoot at what we should call absurdly long distances. I have often been out with them and have let birds pass me as being out of range, while an Eskimo by my side has not hesitated to fire, and has, moreover, brought off his shot. The loading of these guns when the sea is breaking over the 'kayak' is not easy. The natives put the butt of the gun forward on the canoe, and hold the muzzle against the face, or rest it on the shoulder, while they take out powder, cap, and wadding, which they always carry in t heir caps to keep them dry. In this way they manage to load in almost any sea without getting water down the barrel. There is a special bag to contain the gun in front, so that it is always at hand."

I can only imagine the number of hours practicing and perfecting this method of hunting and boating requires. I can also imagine how many broken paddles, lost guns, and time spent repenting of excessive swearing modern shooters would accumulate trying to mimic this style. I imagine gun insurance would go up by a very distinct margin, followed by house-wives unloading fusillades in an attempt to drill some sense into the heads of their overzealous husbands and sons. And yet, these wonderful Eskimos had yet another trick up their sleeves to impress Nansen.

"Another way of getting these birds, which is really better sport still, (I'll bet!) is spearing them with the dart; but it is exceedingly difficult, and needs a great deal of practice. Here, again, the Kangek people are supreme. It is truly delightful to see the darts fly from the throwing-stick as if they were shot from a bow, and birds hit from the same distance at which one would fire with a gun if they were lying on the water. I understand that birds are even killed flying in t his way. It is the auk especially that they use their darts upon, and in November and December, when these birds are most plentiful, though they have no more than one or two of these little weapons lying before them on the 'kayak," they come home often with a bag of sixty or seventy. This is more than one can get with a gun, which frightens the birds a long way round, while by the dart only the very nearest are disturbed.

"While I have been here this sport has not been very good, as the birds are said to be shyer now the sun has got so high. Yet the men will bring home twenty, which have been killed in the course of the morning, all by the strength of the arm and an instrument made from wood and bone. Where, then, are the great advantages which our firearms were to bring these people? The advances of civilization are not always so huge as we are often ready to imagine them."

Indeed, it seems impossible to hold this level of skill from these people in too high esteem. Truthfully, before reading this book, I hadn't the faintest clue to the hunting prowess of the natives of Greenland. This knowledge however has utterly thrilled me to my core and I'm beyond delighted to have learned of these wonderful techniques and hunters!

I highly recommend delving into the book The First Crossing of Greenland, not just for these feats of marksmanship, although that alone makes it worth reading, but to learn of the many other things encountered during their trek and the many things they learned of the Eskimos, the trials endured from their journey, and the delights that came from them.

If you enjoyed reading of this half as much as I did, I will consider this time and article well spent!