Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cute pic of a gerbil, plus I'm speaking in L.A., CA.

Cute Baby Animals - Cute Gerbil
see more Daily Squee

I couldn't resist putting up this pic of a gerbil. Hamsters are a little like gerbils and both are so cute!

Make sure you mark your calendar, or tell anyone you know in the Los Angeles area who might be interested, that I'm speaking in Los Angeles and signing books (they'll sell them there, too, if you don't have one to sign), on Dec 14. Here are the specifics:

Stacey at Audubon Center in Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:00pm
Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, CA
The event is free and open to the public.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Speaking in LA + Legend of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Before I get started talking about that, let me remind any of you living near Los Angeles, CA. that I'll be speaking and signing books at the Audubon meeting on Dec 14, 2010. Keith Malone will be keeping everyone up to date. Details can be seen at the Wesley the Owl facebook, and here they are as well:

Wesley the Owl Stacey will appear at the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles to talk about Wesley and her 19 years with him. She will be available to answer questions and sign books. Copies of "Wesley the Owl" will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

Stacey at Audubon Center in Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:00pm
Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, CA

OK - About the Guardians of Ga'Hoole!
I JUST finished watching the Legend of the Guardians in my hotel room. WOW! I'm so impressed with how well they represented each species of owl! Of course, they had to take artistic license. For example, Tyto (barn owls) owls don't have a colored iris with a pupil that we can see. They have ebony black eyes with no "whites". If you see their eyes in the light, and from the side, you can tell that they do, of course, have a pupil and iris, but both are so dark that the look is one of pure black eyes. I can see why they needed to make the eyes more human, though, for the movie. Humans look to small changes in the eyes for emotion - even the slightest widening or narrowing of the pupil portrays a lot emotionally. So they took license on that. And the beaks are WAAAY smaller in the movie than they are in real life - in real life Wesley's beak reached almost all the way to his ears. The dainty part you see talking in the movie is just the pink tip that shows through the feathers. Again, that license doesn't bother me.

What thrilled me was that they really got some other details right. The feathering was just amazing, although they used different subspecies of Tyto for the characters. Hey that's ok. Tyto (barn owls) are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they look somewhat different from each other because they are different species or rather, subspecies. So the differences you see from one Tyto to another are based on the different types of Tyto. In the USA, we have Tyto Alba, which is what the main character, Soren, is. So is his younger sister, Eglantine, apparently. And she looks JUST like a baby barn owl should look at about 5 and 1/2 weeks old!

Another thing that thrilled me is the way they got the little body language aspects just right. The way they move, walk, shift their weight, all that was right on. And the way they move and use their talons was perfect. Even the fight scenes had it right - with them attacking each other w talons up, and sometimes falling while circling each other, talons locked. Birds of prey do that when fighting, sometimes falling all the way to the ground like that. People think they're mating when they do that but they're actually fighting. I've heard that some species of eagle or hawk may mate while spiraling like that, but I'm betting that's a misunderstanding. When owls are doing that, they're fighting.

Little things made a difference and they got them right. There's a moment when an owl is asked a question and his answer is "no". Instead of verbalizing it, they had the owl look to the side. That is how a barn owl says no! He looks away, off to the side. I have video of me asking Wesley a series of questions and getting yes and no answers. The "no" is him looking away to the side. These people really know their barn owls!

Another thing I loved is how they used real owl sounds throughout, even though they also had the owls speaking English w/ an Australian accent (well, hey, it's a fantasy, right?). But when an owl would fly off, he'd make a screech or sound that was accurate to his species.

They also caught the little differences between how each owl species moves and acts. Digger the burrowing owl is a perfect example in the way he flits around so fast, seeming hyper. That's how they are. I love burrowing owls and they are just like that in their body movements.

The movie starts out with the parents working with the two oldest owls on their BRANCHING LESSONS! THANK YOU!

SO many people in the US just don't seem to understand that OWLS DO NOT GO TO THE GROUND THEN LEARN TO FLY! If they end up on the ground they are totally out of their element and are easy pickin's for predators. And that is exactly portrayed correctly in the movie. I was beyond happy to see that they showed how owls REALLY learn to fly, and that is by fly-hopping from one branch to another, literally learning what works and what doesn't by trial and error! Why is that so difficult for Americans to understand and accept? THIS IS HOW THEY LEARN TO FLY!

The people who did this movie really did their research. They really knew owls. They had the mother barn owl be significantly larger than the father. That is accurate. She is browner. That is accurate.

I remember one time I started out as a new volunteer at a bird of prey rescue and rehab center. There was one large mew with about 25 barn owls in it. The supervisor took me in there and said she had questions about barn owls that maybe I could answer. She wanted to know how to tell the males from the females and I explained that there's a continuum -- Males are very light to white on the chest and tummy, and females are brown at the far end, fading to very light brown in the middle of the spectrum. It's when they're a little bit brown and mostly white that it becomes hard to know exactly which gender the owl is. She described it perfectly when she said, "You mean, the ones who look like they've been rolling in the dust are the females? I thought they were just dirty!" That's just what they look like! Males who've been rolling in the dust!

They even got the stippled look of the eyelids and skin around the eyes right. And the way the pink talons have little pads on them and tiny padlike patterns on their feet, and how they use their talons to hold onto things, either using both, or they'll stand on one foot and use the other talon to pick something up and hold it. They just really understood how an owl's body works and moves. I've never seen anyone get it that right before.

Animators and artists almost always miss it when they try to do barn owl faces. It's like, if you don't know one personally, it's difficult to portray them. Maybe that's because they are so expressive. They really can make a lot of facial expressions because they have a lot of tiny muscles under their facial feathers, which are used to adjust the feathers on their faces to funnel sound into their ears more accurately. Some of the facial expressions were not owlish and were distinctly human, but that's to be expected. This is, after all, a fantasy and we suspend reality for it. Owls don't speak English w/ an Australian accent, for example. And the head and claw armor would weigh them down too much and would impede their main sense, which is hearing. But hey, they got so much of it right that it's amazing. And the artistry! Each feather having a dot at the end - how perfect that is!

And the little sounds each owl made (outside of the human speech) were accurate to their species.

It's a movie about good vs. evil, and has a bit of the "Luke! Use the Force" thing going on, but the visual beauty of the owls themselves and the accuracy about their lives and what makes them tick was so informative and needed in this owl-uneducated world. Owls are so mysterious and wonderful and I'm glad to see some of their mysteries shown off to the world. They are super faithful, super-loyal, cuddly w/ their mate, loving, fierce, and beautiful. What an amazing movie for all of those reasons!

I'm so happy to see owls taking their rightful place in our culture as a celebrated animal in art, popular art and fiction, books, films...even fabric and decorative items like owl lamps and owl sheets! How un! I think people are starting to realize that these creatures are highly intelligent, deeply emotional, fascinating, and beautiful, and resourceful, loyal, fierce, and are to be admired greatly! YAY! GO OWLS!

(this is a completely unbiased opinion! haha)


PS: I just put this up w/o editing it yet so I'm sure there are grammar and spelling mistakes but I'll deal w/ that later. I'm tired and am going to bed....my apologies for any sloppiness....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Colorado mountain dog with tiny kitten

(This pic was taken by Wendy Francisco so she has the copyright on it under crackonoon ragdolls...)

This is Caspian, Wendy's dog and my dog's father, with a kitten. The kitten is obviously trying to look as big as she can by sticking all her fur out, putting her tail straight up in the air, and slightly arching her back. Yet, she's holding her ground. But the one to look at here is Caspian. He has a motherly look on his face. Fiona gets this same look when my hamsters crawl across her paws, or go right up to her, nose to nose. Kissy, one of my sweetest and most confident hamsters, sat on her haunches as squirrels do (hamsters are Syrian ground squirrels) and put one hand up on Fiona's nose like a traffic cop, clearly saying, "Back up.". Fiona DID! So cute!

Fiona, and other mountain dogs, has an instinct to protect little helpless animals against big scary predators. These dogs are solving the problems ranchers are having with mountain lions and even wolves, in the case of sheep and goats (supposedly some ranchers of goats and sheep are saying that wolves are taking some of their animals. If it's wolves or wild dogs, either way, Colorado mountain dogs completely solve the problem). They are naturally protective of all the animals of the household and property and naturally aggressive toward predators, even barking at hawks and owls eyeing the chickens!

It's amazing to see such a huge dog be so very gentle with such tiny, vulnerable animals! The only indication Fiona gives that there's a hamster on or between her paws is her tail wags. Now the hamsters are so used to her that when she walks into the hamstery (which is my master bedroom, given over to the care of hamsters), they get out of their nests to greet her and touch noses through the cage bars. She even tries to eat their food, when miss Fiona turns her nose up at the very best of dog foods!

She's the most amazing dog I've ever known or had, and I've had wonderful, wonderful dogs! Fiona is just different - gently protective, super gentle in the house, keeping to her own toys and leaving mine alone.

Sheesh, I sound like a commercial!

Anyway, this picture of Caspian with a tiny ragdoll kitten is just too cute! Wendy is one of the top breeders of ragdoll cats, and they have the run of her house, so they're all indoor cats who are used to a lot of love. If I didn't have hamsters, I'd have one of these fluffy little cloudpuffs. But i digress.

Enjoy the picture!

Yes, I'm working on my next book, but I take a looonngggg time to write a book because there are soo soo many stories to tell and things I want to say, and I start by just writing all of it, which is a LOT of pages, like 1000 pages or so, then I start to whittle it down, almost like sculpting, but w/ words, to say what I think I must say or illustrate through the stories. It takes me a long time, too, possibly because I'm not super experienced as an author. I don't blaze through like some authors. But I am definitely writing the next book, which is one reason I'm no longer online so much.

At some point I will address the issue of the Barn Owl Alliance - I do have plans for it but not the same as I originally thought, because we need more research before we can recommend exactly what should ideally go into a box, and I'm talking w/ owl box makers, rehabbers, and biologists to try to figure it all out in terms of an ideal design.

I do love the branching system that Carlos put up for Molly's babies. Obviously that worked! Also, the one Tom put up for Owlivia's babies also worked quite well. Both of those can serve as very good examples of what is needed for barn owl babies to branch.

I love how the guardians of ga'hoole books emphasize branching and explain in great detail how owlets really learn to fly. That author did her research!

Happy Fall and Happy cooler weather everyone! I wish WE had cooler weather in S. California but no...it's in the 80s again. Believe me, that does get monotonous. It's nice to have a change of seasons and I want that. Hence the desire to move to Colorado. So enjoy your change of seasons!