The Teachable Moment

And one more thing…

The Master Bloviator has already won.

Now our collective sphincters need to employ some basic yoga techniques and simply breath, relax – and accept the fate that we liberal/progressives are being offered up to the Mayan gods for sacrificial consideration.

We can throw all manner of fits, but the bottom line is we’re stuck with this co*ksu*ker for the next four years.  It just ain’t gonna change. We can’t merely blink our eyes and simply will this Orangutan out of existence (my apologies to orangutans worldwide).


On the other hand, in a sordid way, I have a confession to make: there’s something about me that admires The Way of The Donald.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like the chap one iota and pretty much detest everything he represents and stands for. But one must admire the fact that he pretty much pulled a coup right outta his tuchis.  Against all discernible odds, Donald Trump did exactly what he said he was going to do. Win.

Which leads me to my adjunct notion. This “pussy grabbin’, smack-talkin’, asswipe” never really pretended to be anything he wasn’t. His bombastical, preposterous, and skewered logic was exactly the necessary flame that the anti-Hillary moths swarmed towards in the waning light of potential political defeat. Think Zombies at polling stations.

Bill Maher had it right all along. He had the heebie-jeebies about this election while the rest of us were sitting on the laurels of our confidence in our pollsters.

And quite frankly, it serves us right for underestimating our own foul winds. It serves us right for underestimating the President-elect. And it serves us right for drawing the assertions that after a historically successful eight year Obama presidency – that Hillary Clinton was the natural heir-apparent. It was never locked in. Not once, not ever. Red is still very, very white.

I think perhaps the most damaging blow is not the election having been lost to the artificial tanning salon, but rather the loss of the tipping Supreme Court Justice seat. There I wince even more.

Trump will be comedy fodder for (hopefully) one term – but our Justices are lifetime appointments.

Yet I say, enjoy this ephemeral win, my conservative fellow Americans. I hazard that you have, finally… stirred the bee’s nest of liberal complacency.

Okay, so dems da bad newz.

I actually contend we have an opportunity here. What’s happened is the clear liquid clarification of putting ourselves under a microscope to examine errors of our ways.

The worst thing that’s going to happen to most Americans will be that we’ve become (again) the laughingstock of the occidental world. In the next four years, you’ll most likely have your same job, drive your same car, and no one is going to cut down your bougainvillea without your permission.

My scant two cents avers is that it’s time to redouble our effort. To take stock not in the faults of those we disagree with, but to evaluate where we went wrong in the first place. We need to dissect in exacting detail the circumstances that led up to such a resounding progressive defeat. How not to ride on the coattails of success, but to understand and believe that politics is perpetual toil.

I don’t know how many of your remember the original documentary, “Scared Straight” about latchkey teens enduring an all-out in-your-face interrogation by bona fide convict lifers, but it certainly seemed like an effective method of stupidity aversion.

If Trump’s election into office fails to succeed in terrifying us into action within the next four years – we don’t deserve to hold office ever again.

Gods and Dogs

Dogs and Gods 3

The Dog

We rescued Bandy from the Pima County Animal shelter in spring of 2014; a dauntingly large albeit efficiently run facility – which sadly is also a kill shelter. There is just no getting around that hopeless fact. Interestingly when I was living in Los Angeles, it became increasingly fashionable to adopt from no kill shelters – when in fact that’s the diametric opposite of what one should do.

There is a profound sadness playing God with the lives of so many dogs and cats hanging in the balance. It’s gut wrenching watching braces of dogs sticking their noses through the grates of their metal cages; every single one of them with a “Pick me! Pick me!” beseeching in their eyes. I understand the temptation to go to a “no kill” shelter in order to assuage one’s sense of who gets to live and who dies – yet it’s the easy way out. One’s hands don’t get less dirty by simply avoiding the heartache.

The concept should be twofold: bring a beautiful beast into your life, and save its life at the same time. The reward is deeper than one can imagine.

I digress.

Bandy was said to be about 2 years old at the time Marguerita found her scouring the internet (Marguerita was scouring the internet, not the dog). When Marguerita gets it in her head that she’s going to adopt a dog, she will spend endless hours into the wee morning on the www searching tirelessly until she believes she’s found “the one”.

And for what it’s worth, I had little say in the matter. Providence had been set in motion.

Bandy’s tale of woe is not an uncommon story. Trapped in a cage at Pima County’s Animal shelter with an aggressive and sexually assaultive “cellie”, it seemed Bandy cried for the quiet life she was purportedly born into. Her sketchy printed dossier in the plastic sleeve of her cage gate historied her as having lived rurally in a desertic, walled-in compound of an elderly person who at some point simply could no longer take care of her – and she was subsequently remanded to the county authorities for a house of rude awakenings.

Bandy was a medium sized, black and brindle dog with a long white patch along her throat and a fine white trim from between her eyes to the end of her nose. We knew she was part Pit, even though she had a long snout profile, so we figured her to have black Lab assumed into her DNA. No matter how one cuts it, she was proportionate and simply beautiful. Fact of the matter is that as a breed, Pit Bulls are the most wonderful, diverse, kid-loving dogs in the world. The mythology that surrounds them falls on the humans who are entrusted to care for them. The maligning of the Pit Bull is at its core of one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated upon the soft thinkers. It’s humankind that is capable of turning a breed into a vicious animal. The question I posit is, what’s the human’s excuse? I suppose we need to ask Michael Vick that question.

If you’re sitting on the fence on this question or have any doubt, I lead you to the Netflix documentary entitled: The Champions.  I highly recommend you have a box of tissues next to you – or at least a mop at the ready.


I digress once again.

Marguerita was the first to run down to the Rescue Shelter to have a look at Bandy.

Predictably, her heart strings were being yanked from every direction from what seemed like a haunted coliseum for every dog in there – for if she had her way, she’d have saved all 1000 death row dogs.

But she fell in love with Bandy at first glance and was immediately fretted that Bandy couldn’t squeeze past from behind her larger, pushier cell mate.

The second visit to the Pima shelter was Marguerita, my father, and myself – and this time they transited Bandy from her confines, bringing her to an exterior “introduction area” that had some shade, sitting benches, and a few chew toys to see if there’s a potential compatibility.

Bandy was demure, a little shaky, gorgeous, nervously nudging her cold and wet nose against our forearms, and to our perception begging for a reprieve from all this insanity.

It was also during this time in the visitor’s quarters that the shelter handler was perfectly blunt about the fact that most of the dogs are scheduled to be put down. This might have been interpreted as a scare tactic were it not for the simple fact that it was so frightfully true. The handler let it be known that dogs sensed perfectly that something was horribly amiss in a looming Logan’s Run-esque sort of way.

Even then, I still asked Marguerita for one more night to sleep on this decision. My father with his drifting attention span was just sort of indifferently there and didn’t seem to register much of an opinion one way or the other.

And yet, my old man became an integral part of this melancholic yarn.

So now for the second time, we still don’t leave with Bandy so we can have ample time to mull this decision over. Or at least, I wanted to give it one last evening of pros and cons consideration.

It was around Midnight that Marguerita and I decided that Bandy would become ours, and we would retrieve her the following day. As a heart-skipping misstep, we had neglected to write down Bandy’s County I.D. # – and that very night, her profile seemed all but vanquished from the Pima website register.

We were later informed after we had left on that second visit, Bandy was so desperate to follow us out that she leapt through a small aperture atop the six ft. gate that defined her quarters, and managed to escape for a few nano-moments until one of the pound tenders recaptured her and placed her in one of the indoor vestibules a few heartbeats closer to Doctor Mengele’s dog chambers.

With great relief, we found Bandy again and officially brought her home the very next day.

In the beginning, Bandy was unsure of her new environment, predictably, but soon grew to become increasingly comfortable among us.

What began to emerge was a beautiful forging of an unlikely relationship between my ailing father and Bandy.

The desert bloom of this short tale.

The Old Boy

My father had been growing increasingly ill while still living up in Marquette, Michigan, starting with a diagnosis of dementia in late 2012, and moving right into a diagnosis of cancer in early 2013, which immediately required the one-two punch treatments of Chemotherapy and Radiation to be run concurrently for damn near 4 and a half months – in the middle of which he suffered an additional debilitating onslaught of shingles from his breastplate and around the side to behind his shoulder blades. It almost took more out of him than the cancer treatments themselves.

Yet my father survived all this punishment through June of that year. A revised prognosis suggested iffy but stable and marginally improved.

There was no getting away from that sense that a distant hourglass had been turned and that the mysteries of the universe would reveal itself in its own pace without consultation. There was no easy row to hoe from this point moving forward.

With the prospect of another pending brutal Marquette winter in the offing, it became incumbent upon me to make the decision to pack us both up – and simply git – before the descent of the early snows of November.

After selling off what remained of my father’s treasured library and belongings, my father and I took to the open road to join up with Marguerita who had just settled in Tucson, AZ.


As an Ottoman Historian, then later a United States diplomat, there were few corners of the world in which my father would ever feel alien. During the course of his life, he developed an unrivaled peripatetic capacity; a trait that I assumed myself by virtue of osmosis and my own personal experiences. The both of us had a way of subsuming ourselves into a culture and blending in virtually seamlessly enough so as not to appear garish amid the indigenous.

But on this last sojourn to Tucson it was a little different this time. For the first time in my father’s expanded life, he was no longer in control of his destiny. This trip was a little more peculiar. More surreal. Irrespective of the fact that he once saw slain corpses littering the streets of Port Au Prince or had to flee the Hutu genocide in Rwanda in a diplomatic cavalcade. This time, his hands were in my hands.

It was for the completely novel fact that my father’s growing dementia created a new dynamic – something akin to a lunar landscape during the course of our journey as we headed towards the Southwest. He really had no idea where he was going, why he was going there, nor the specifics of his own life as they became a matter of a moving tapestry to which he no longer required pressing answers. The time had come for him to trust me with his life.

It was a good journey, and it was to be our last. A great deal of my father’s last traipse across our country was spent gazing out of the window, watching the flat topography of the Midwestern farmlands slowly merge with rise and fall of the Southwestern mountain ranges.

The Bonding

When Bandy was finally introduced into our lives in the spring of 2014, my father’s cascading symptoms were headed in only one direction. With lockstep repetition, we did the doctors, the specialists, the CAT scans, the MRI’s, and the endless office visits, etc. It became so routine – yet to what end, really. For betterment. For worse. For maintenance. It becomes virtually impossible to know what the right approach is. In heart of hearts, one knows the outcome is going to be the same – the question becomes what is the path of least resistance.


Better than Davincis touch of GodYet during that critical time, in a form of grace and ease did finally emerge its way into my father’s quavering existence in the form of the dog named Bandy. Our Dog. Our Rescued Beastie.

To place a bit of perspective on this, my father never really had a dog – either growing up or as an adult.  As my father grew incrementally weaker, Bandy in turn was finally growing into her confidence — and yet somehow they became the unlikeliest of companions in both of their transitions.

My father didn’t move particularly well as this point. He might be sitting on the patio, and simply tips towards Bandy and say, “hey there black dog”. Instinctively, Bandy would rise from whatever soft lair she was comfortably nestled in, and reposit herself within arm’s range of my father’s spindly fingers. He would reach out and stroke her smooth head, and tousle her silken-soft floppy ears. Bandy knew not to budge from that specific spot until my father’s eyes closed from the Zen of it all and his hand dropped to the side as he was beckoned by his next nap.

Bandy’s ears were so supple that my father would bemuse that we should ply them with butter and cinnamon sugar for a snack. And since his dementia was in pretty much full force by this time, this whimsy was a daily iteration.

And truth be known, Bandy knew exactly what side her toast was buttered on – figuratively and literally. Come dinner time, she was always at the ankles of the most susceptible link at the dining table. My father would finger-flick chunks of steak, chicken, or any other extras he figured he could live without directly onto the floor tile where Bandy crouched like the royal taste-tester. Only in reverse; he was the tester, she taster. It became a full-on exercise in futility to try and tell either one of them to cease and desist.

I would be remiss if I said things weren’t getting increasingly more challenging with respect to the caretaking of my father, but we weren’t without tremendous moments of whimsy or even occasional hilarity. As long as everyone is alive, we were able to enjoy those moments.

Bandy did have separation anxiety and when Marguerita and I would have to dash out of the townhouse for a spell, often her crisp, persistent barking (the rare instance in which she ever barked) was more than my father could handle. Without thought he would take it upon himself to open the front door to our complex and Bandy would be off and running up and down the asphalt parking lot and into the arroyo of the foothills into which our apartment complex was tucked.

There was one bittersweet instance of tragi-comedy wherein Marguerita and I pulled into the complex to witness several neighbors and the postal delivery woman running around in circles in the middle of the parking lot in a valiant effort to regain control of Bandy who was running and darting in large circumferential swaths as if everyone was playing a game of “catch me”.

In the center of this encircling chaos was my open-robbed father unintentionally donning his near dropping Depends and his long, lanky limbs, holding an inordinately long rope that had been fashioned as an exterior tether, beseeching aloud, “Black Dog! C’mere, dog! Right over here Black Dog!”

Once we drew up in our car, Bandy was easy enough to lure back into place, but ultimately the concerned citizenry felt as obliged to wrangle in Bandy so as to redirect this 6’2”, bearded and hoary-haired old gent who seemed to be turning in circles like a wobbly dervish extending loops of light white rope from his wrists.

It was just one of those a picture is worth a thousand words type of happenstances.

The Dénouement

By Mid-summer of 2014 it was determined by the Los Doctores that my father needed a radical surgery regarding his rematerialized and now quickly advancing cancer. Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say it was all a nasty bit of work. Further exacerbated by his dementia. I often pondered if his dementia was a bane or a blessing. In conclusion I would now say both in equal parts.

Toward the end of the summer, my Pops was admitted to the U of A Main hospital where he underwent this complicated procedure, after which he was hospitalized in one Medical location or another for close to twenty days. Then one afternoon, he was finally discharged back home.

Naturally, Bandy welcomed and sniffed around Dad like a Curious George, giving him the proper homecoming. Yet my father’s personal quarters were always off limits by Bandy’s own determination. She never felt the urge to breach the threshold of his bedroom or jump up on his bed. Bandy respectfully accorded my father his space.

Not long after the surgery, we all moved to our new townhome. By this time, I was extremely fortunate to have the lenitive and desperately needed assistance of Casa de la Luz Home Hospice founded here in Tucson. With their help and our collective efforts, my father improved to the point where was actually discharged from hospice care – at least for awhile. The good news meant that he had stabilized to a large extent. The bad news was that now I had to figure out how to bathe my inordinately tall and unsteady father without any backup.  But we managed, and for a few moments, life settled back into a pleasant pattern.

During the course of this entire mid-winter, the tacit bond between Bandy and my father grew deeper into one another like cozy fleece blankets. Whenever my father ambled out unsteadily from his bedroom towards the back patio via the living room, Bandy would take this as her cue to slide off the couch, yawn, stretch, shake off the ‘sleepies’, then escort him to the outdoor table where they would both juxtapose themselves for a bit more of rest and relaxation. Cool winter air, mountain views – who could ask for more. They were starting to interact like an old, familiar couple who had no intention of deviating from their intimate routine.

Late winter of 2015 brought on a new manifestation of my father’s cancer. Located in the same general area, yet completely different in nature, appearance, and fearsome tenacity.  Bring back the battery testing, doc visits, and whatever else that comes with feeble attempts at prolonging life.  And… Welcome back Casa de la Luz.*

* https://casahospice.com/patient-stories/

The news simply wasn’t good, and the hourglass has been turned again.

When late spring gave way to summer, every physical motion became more challenging as my father grew perceptively weaker. The true satisfying constant in his ebbing life was, “black dog” – now forever his steadfast companion.

On the evening of Friday August 7th, Marguerita and I wheeled my father into his bedroom early for the night, deciding that we would also sleep on the tandem bed in his room as the situation had grown worrisome. Yet even more telling was that Bandy had now taken up the gauntlet and propped herself at the edge of my father’s bed as we wrangled this large, extremely frail man into position.

As a reminder, in the past, Bandy would never interlope on my father’s inner sanctum, only on this occasion she was intuiting something far more important. This had now became the classic notion that dogs quite literally feel that something is amiss, and it became her duty to lend what comfort she could. To witness it wasn’t only touching, it was enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. To see a dog compassionately closing ranks on the infirmed is quite something to behold.

God and DogsThe tenderness with which Bandy rendered herself pulled the entire universe into a celestial perspective for all of us. Her animal nature and concern was mystifyingly pure; dissolving all notions about the separation between man and beast.

Her care for my father was like a girding against everything that was rotten and incomprehensible in this world. Bandy’s presence and her response helped us become more ethereally attuned to the fact that there were but a few grains of sand left in the hourglass.

On Sunday morning Aug. 9th, I walked passed my father’s room on the way to the kitchen and noticed his lamplight was still on. All I could perceive was the ticking cadence of the oxygen machine. I took a brief moment in the kitchen to brace myself – as I knew a moment such as this one was upon me sooner or later.

Slowly, I returned back down the hallway, turning past the door of his bathroom and fully opened the door to my father’s room.

And there he was. Still as a monk. Mouth slightly ajar. Eyes, slightly open. And eighty two years of a rich, eclectic, and full life had ascended into the firmament. Painless. Quiet. Peaceful.

Even posthumously, Bandy had jumped upon my father’s hospital bed and laid herself at his cool feet. This from the Black Dog who never before invaded his space.

Not long after, we needed to shift my father’s body, and discovered cherry pits beneath him. It was, in fact, his very last meal.

How fitting. A bowl of cherries.

Joshua McGowan l blackeireman@gmail.com


Muay Thai


The Art of Eight Limbs

Ever so rarely throughout the course of history can one lay claim to having witnessed a precedent setting event that will change the way we look at our world. With the advances on digital technology and live streaming video, this is one of those singularly unique opportunities to bear witness to behind-the-bamboo, virtual, raw, and fully live occurring mainstream events. Brought to you in digital clarity from the remote and bucolic villages of Thailand in preparation for the main stage battles to be held in Bangkok before royalty, the revered and storied origins of Muy Thai Fighting will be authentically documented at its source before advancing to its full combat – center stage glory – and which can only be seen and experienced on livestreampayperview.com as it unfolds.

This vicarious sense of living just behind the lens of a roaming camera – as if it were your own eyes – will deliver what can only be described as some of the most exciting, adrenaline-releasing content – both in rehearsal and in the fight – not to mention electronically rendered in real time from halfway around our world. You will be held rapt as you are able to view firsthand the deftness and skill of the legendary Muay Thai combatants through the benefit of our cutting edge cinematography/camera technology, defining the most pristine footage ever to be filmed for such a multi-media coverage series of events.  From this intimate vantage point, you will not only just see, but almost feel the primal, and yet highly skilled blows as they are executed by Muay Thai practitioners

This is not MMA. This is not UFC. This is about the core and mastery of Muay Thai being justly honored before the world, and to which all other martial disciplines pay homage as the most venerated fighting style known in the realm of hand to hand combat.

With this livestreampayperview.com subscription you will also get to shadow Muy Thai legend, Grand Master Toddy, his disciples, and his associates as they delve deep beneath the tropical canopy of the Thai jungles and villages to assist in documenting and unveiling the concealed shroud of the beginnings and spiritual inspirations of the secretive Muay Thai training bases as they have existed for hundreds of years and the essential extract from which Muay Thai evolved long before the definition was ever uttered throughout the rest of the world.

Follow this mesmerizing journey with Master Toddy as he treks through this mysterious and forbidding terrain, and you will be uniquely privileged to experience events as they reveal themselves, witnessing with every precise strike and maneuver – the skill, the range, the strategy, the execution and the timing of the Muay Thai fighter as they emerge from the obscure jungles of Thailand to take their rightful place on center stage held before the King and Queen of Thailand – as has been tradition for hundreds of years, culminating in the greatest Muay Thai showdown known to the ancient and modern world alike.

“Every Thai is blessed with venom” – King Mangra of Burma

Joshua McGowan / Freelance Copywriting



E.T Drone Home!



I would love to tell you about the lead up to the decision to spend my last 5 grand on a high end Drone (aka UAV / UAS) – but since this editorial is geared more towards being a tutorial, I’m going to stick to the facts, Ma’am.

Under the calm guidance of my friend, Robert Luscumb of Desert Sky Photography, I made the lofty (so to speak) decision to purchase the latest and spankiest drone on the market with the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art 4D lens which invariably has to be of German sounding origin such as Zeiss, Leica, and AGFA. Only this smashing new lens is called: Zenmuse X5. Sounds precision enough to me; the flying Porsche of new lenses.

Oh, incidentally, when I say smashing new lens, that little double entendre will follow shortly as part of my cautionary parable for new drone owners.

Several months ago, I took the plunge and purchased the DJI Inspire 1 Pro with the Zenmuse X5 Lens. I have to admit, I haven’t felt this giddy about something so shiny and new since my five speed banana chopper from when I was ten years old.

I’m not going to tell you about all the nuanced, ‘nerd patience’ gadgetry my sparkling new drone possesses or how to use it. Why? Because I really still don’t know myself. I’m still learning.

This is more of a course like: Zen and the Art of Droning and how NOT to be traumatized by Your New Purchase.

You see, owning a fancy-schmancy drone like the one that I gave up my second born for and the fear factor equated with it – is in direct proportion to how much disposable income you have. If your pockets are comfortably deep, you can run your DJI Inspire 1 Pro right into the side of a barn, and sit down and calmly chew on your granola bar whilst reviewing why you turned left instead of right.

On the other hand, if you’re the sort of individual who glances furtively towards panhandlers stalking traffic medians, secretly projecting their reality onto your possible future, then acquiring said drone and operating it can be a perilously nerve racking undertaking.

So my experience with my new drone is as follows; brief as I can bloviate.

It arrives in a beautiful, black zipper case. The case itself is well padded and sturdy enough for travel, yet the zippers are a bit tight around the corners. A little KY jelly on a cloth usually eases the tightness (doesn’t it always), on the turns.

You can fully rely on the prestigious U of Y (otherwise known as the University of YouTube) for many nuggets of precious knowledge, including on how to unpack and assemble your components. And in this day and age, if you want a users’ manual, you ol’ fuddy, download it.

Depending on what you wish to use your bouncing baby DJI Inspire 1 Pro for exactly, you may wish to consider purchasing the following accessories at the same time you actually order your drone, or very shortly thereafter:

  • A second battery from DJI. Seriously, don’t wait on this one. Get the 2nd You’ll thank me later. If you’re going “Uber Pro” – have four batteries all day. The expense will usurp the embarrassment of running out of juice in the middle of a job with an important client.
  • A newer version iPad Mini or equivalent to set into your control grip
  • A ten inch (10”) connector cable if you’re getting an Apple product as your viewer.
  • A decent SD memory chip with as much capacity as you’d care to pay for. Mo’ is bettah.
  • Also, get a USB SD memory chip reader to download content
  • If you plan on downloading considerable footage, a dedicated external hard drive

Once you’ve assembled everything together and in the same location, it’s time to charge everything: batteries, controller, iPad Mini (or equiv.) Get everything all up to full power.

Again, the University of YouTube will “edjumacate” you on getting your firmware updated. Everything is there for you see, mimic, and paint by numbers correctly.

Once you’ve downloaded the DJI Go Application and registered your new drone, I highly recommend delving into the simulator section of your app. It’s definitely worth a few trial flights before hitting the pavement. Which in the literal sense, is something you want to avoid at all cost.

Okay, so now you’re ready to finally get out to a nice open clearing for your maiden voyage.

I preface the following by saying that I was fortunate to have Robert Luscumb of Desert Sky Photography, pave a few paths for me from concept to flight. Robert was able to assist me in muddling through some the initial stages of the complicated basics. Take my word for it when I say ‘complicated basics’, it’s not an oxymoron.

But then I was on my own. A mere babe in the woods of drone piloting.

And this is where it gets interesting.

My first and second flights were out in my own parking lot: I turn on the iPad Mini, fire up the controller and to connect to the DJI Inspire 1 Pro – then I walk over to my drone taunting me quietly. I press the top of the battery with one long tap followed by a shorter tap, and she buzzes to life. The gimble begins to turn and orient itself like there are tiny little pilots in there saying “check” and “all systems” go.

Time for takeoff.

There is an unsettling ferocious whirring sound when all four propellers start fire up loudly in unison, rendering a sense of the operator not being in control. It’s an illusion and the equipment was designed to be properly controlled, it just doesn’t feel like it right away. I cautiously press the toggle forward, and take it directly up for about ten feet, then take my thumbs completely off of the controls so as to marvel at how this machine simply hovers in one spot while it pulls up its own landing gear. Mind you, this is the DJI Inspire 1 Pro that I’m speaking of; I’ve never attempted to fly any other species.

I toggle to rotate my drone in one spot. Raise her up and down a little bit. At this point, I’m still looking only at the drone and not the image she’s capturing on the IPad. Next, I take my drone up to about 100 ft. and finally admire the surrounding view through the iPad Mini. I move the drone around in concentric little circles paying more attention to the motion of the flight than capturing images. After about fifteen minutes of cautious flight, I take my drone slowly back down to the asphalt.

It is imperative to let the landing gear bring itself down before touching the ground, otherwise you might knock the delicate mechanisms of the camera.

It is also highly recommended to hover the drone low off of the ground until the battery level is less than 5% – which preserves the longevity of the battery.

First successful flight, hair raising though enough for one venture out.

My second flight was very similar to my first one, and in relatively the same location. I live in a townhome complex with patios and backyards as well as adequate tree cover.

This time I’ve become increasingly bold, using my iPad to monitor my location, and I move my bird in much broader circles around “mah hood”. Confidence slightly increased, I even lose visual contact of my drone for entire seconds at a time. When I’m finally ready to bring her home for a land in the parking lot, a new aspect of droning comes charging at me in the form an irate lady neighbor. As I’m trying to calmly set my DJI Inspire 1 Pro down, this woman gets up in my face and caws on about how she was taking a nap on her patio and how my drone was looking right at her, yadda and etc.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was the last thing in the world my drone was focusing in on. Wasn’t necessary to poke further holes in her sense of tremendous importance.

So whether they’re conspiracy theorists or people who aren’t paid enough attention in life, there’s always going to be someone to level a grievance if they even think you’re encroaching in any way. They’re out there, trust me. Use your best judgement.

Okay, so here goes. I conducted my third flight at an empty baseball field. My Home Point was approximately 20 to 25 ft. from the chain link fence that bordered the field. Fired everything up and sent my Inspire 1 Pro aloft. This time she flew high and my confidence had increased.  I rotated her and captured video and photographs from an altitude of close to 200 ft. Then I moved my drone beyond the field and over the nearby arroyo and took more photographs.

My drone got far enough up and away that even that ‘Angry Birds’ propeller sound simply diminished with distance. I shot my drone back over my head towards the north and took more captures facing the Catalina Mountain range.

Finally satisfied with my first real, unfettered freedom flight replete with pics and videos, I decided to try out what is ostensibly a very useful feature: The Home Button! The Home Button or feature is designed to bring the Drone back down to the point of takeoff without assistance.

The Home Button is triggered one of two ways: The drone operator can either request it, or the other way is that it’s activated when the drone understands that its battery is too close to being drained and is compelled to take over control of itself and attempts to set down on the operator’s behalf. It’s a very handy feature, particularly if you lose visual contact with it.

The last thing you want is for your new Starship Enterprise to drop out of the sky and plummet towards earth simply because you weren’t paying attention to the power reserve.

It’s important to note that the operator can override the Home Button feature by simply pushing the toggle forward and wresting control from the independent minded DJI Inspire 1 Pro. I wish I had known that before what I’m about to share with you.

So, done with my drone in flight, I tap the Home Button feature. My drone turns around in the sky and begins to make its descent back to its point of origin. The following few details are important to remember.  If you recall, I said I was 20 to 25 ft. feet from the chain-link fence, and I launched my drone into open space from that spot. Yet, when I summoned my drone using the Home Button feature, it was aiming in from the opposite side with trees and… that’s right, the chain link fence.  Had I been 50 or 100 ft. deeper into the ball field when I lofted it, I wouldn’t be sharing this story.

Now descends my drone, nearly shaving the tops of trees, slowly and seemingly in the right direction. As it continues to lower itself, I realize with a certain degree of hair-raising alarm that my drone doesn’t seem to be making much of an effort to avoid the top of the chain-link fence. Remember, it’s a homing device, not a crash avoidance feature (such as the one found in the new DJI Phantom 4).

If I knew what I was doing rather than swallowing my Adam’s apple in sheer terror, I could have simply sent my precious baby back up into the sky with an override push of the control toggle. But no…

Picture slow motion here, something akin to watching an execution. I was witness to my drone grabbing atop of the chain-link fence, flipping and writhing upon the indifferent metal – the sound and sight of all my propellers snipping and clipping away, my craft twisting this way and that until it finally landed on the asphalt upside down, coughing itself quiet as it shuts down.

Lesson 1: Two simple measures could have avoided this fiasco and changed the destiny of my immediate existence:

  1. Toggle override to lift the drone and retrieve control of it. ALWAYS go up when in doubt.
  1. Launch the drone in an area clear of immediate surrounding obstruction – or as in don’t be standing next to a metal fence, you putz.

Sadly, I laid my wounded DJI Inspire 1 drone on the hood of my car, and it became rather evident that the feet of the landing gear were no longer aligned. Alas.

Three weeks and four hundred dollars later, Drones Plus of Las Vegas brought my troublesome little bird back to life – broken limbs mended and ready to go.

You’d think a Drone neophyte would have learned his or her lesson by now, extolling the virtues of caution, practice, acquired erudition, vigilance and a sworn oath to be more careful in the future.

You’d think that, right?  I’m thinkin’ not so.

Three weeks later when my DJI Inspire 1 Pro with my damn precious n’ lovely Zenmuse X5 lens arrived from Las Vegas, I was guardedly happy, albeit a bit gun shit.. er shy.

My fourth flight was out of a Western Tucson arroyo with my friend and mentor, Robert Luscumb with Desert Sky Photography (see www.tucsonaerialphotography.com). We flew our DJI Inspire 1 Pros in tandem up down and around in the waning afternoon light.

Time was up, and I brought my Drone down a wee bit too quickly on the bike path before I gave the landing gear enough time to properly extend itself. Such is the bane of the anxious and the fumbled-thumbed.

No damage, thankfully.

The following afternoon, I find myself at the exact same spot where I crashed my DJI Inspire 1 Pro at the baseball diamond but not so close to the chain-link fence this time.

I have another “smashingly successful” flight, but I end up taking my eye off battery gauge.  I’m in clear space this time, but my drone shoots up like a rocket, then starts heading towards to grass of the baseball diamond.

It was once again in the “Home” mode.

At about 50 ft. overhead it shoots straight up, then takes a vertiginous plummet back to earth. And again, rather than toggling an upwards “override” and in a full on panic, I’m bringing my drone back down at such haste of speed that I’m not allowing the landing gear position itself into place.

My beloved and inordinately expensive Zenmuse X5 begins to bounce off the grass like a drunk on a trampoline.

And then my drone settled murmuring and whizzing, only this time on the grass. Damage control assessment again – and followed by the immediate impulse thought, “why can’t a stupid sucker get an even break ‘round here?”.

The following day, it’s established that the gimble has a mind of its own and is doing the herky-jerky. For the most part, my drone flies fine, it’s now my gimble and lens that are protesting and requesting asylum from their owner.

Not long thereafter, and upon a very light-touched dissection utilizing eye-glass screws, the entire vision of the lens has been compromised.

For the second time within the same month, off to Drones Plus in Las Vegas we go.

Whatever the problem actually was, it took Drones Plus 3 weeks to determine that whatever problem I had was beyond their scope of reparation. To their credit, they’re more drone and less lens and gimble.  They tried. Oh well.

The dénouement of this story is that my entire DJI Inspire 1 Pro avec Zenmuse X5 is now in the hands of DJI North America located in Southern California.

Their reputation for accessibility and personal touch is distinctly in question. They market a unique product – they know you’ve already purchased their boutique product, so their eagerness to abet rotten drone pilots is weak at best.

However, if you keep pressing as I did, they can eventually break through their panoply and get something done.

As of this writing, my DJI Inspire 1 Pro with my ass kickin’ Zenmuse X5, is in the hands of the Tyrell Corporation of Drones. I hope she returns in one solid piece.

I would hate to have to do that “double thumb” to the eye sockets thing like Roy the Replicant.

Stayed tuned to find out what happens next…


… This is what happened next.

Post Script 1:

It was politely pointed out to me by Alan Perlman of UAV Coach (uavcoach.com) that I mistakenly referred to my lens as a “Zunmuse” rather than Zenmuse several times (as of now corrected). That, in and of itself, is something of a misdemeanor. No wonder my drone has been giving me the “hairy eyeball” from the outset. I can’t even call its nasty bits by their proper names. Serves me right for my dubious fortune.

Post Script 2:

Based on what I know, DJI America has gotten a wee bit of bad press regarding both the accessibility and customer service angles. I imagine that some of these observations weren’t entirely unfounded in the beginning. This is what happens when you have a nation of quiescent nerdskis toiling away in a well appointed basement of foosball tables and latte machines.

But in their defense, I can tell you that I was very well treated. I sent them my defunct Zenmuse X5. The turnaround was exactly two weeks. They sent me back a brand new one.

All things being equal, I didn’t deserve a new lens and gimble. I bounced that lil’ bad boy like an infant off my knee. And nor am I saying that those of you who follow me into the gates of droning hell will get this fortunate.  I’m just saying, DJI treated me well and with professionalism. Be cautious, but not too scared.

Larry Drake has Died at 67

Larry Drake has Died at 67

Many of you, maybe some of you, perhaps just a few of you will find this face familiar. This is the face of Larry Drake who passed away several days ago.  I felt as if I should say a word or two as I genuinely liked the man.

I met Larry Drake through my friend, EM, and subsequently I’ve known him for close to 20 some odd years. Not intimately, but always in passing and with tremendously engaging conversation. We ran into one another mostly at EM and AM’s dinners and gatherings, and occasionally Larry and I would end up accidentally sidling up to the Formosa bar at the same time, then proceed to brabble on endlessly about the condition of the universe. Again. And as usual.

Larry was best known for his reoccurring role as Benny Stulwicz in L.A. Law – way back in the day. It was an actor’s dream to land such a long lasting role, if for no other reason than it was a sound way to secure a nice campsite up in the hills of Hollyweird.

And yet, I propose that his success didn’t come without it’s sold soul to the devil trade-off.

Truth be known, Larry Drake was a genuinely talented actor not to mention a supremely intelligent chap all around. And humorous. He would chew on his nicotine gum like a cow gnawing on cud; subconsciously – all the while successfully parlaying another well timed joke. He really did have ‘skillz’.  Had L.A. Law never happened to him, he may have very well suffered the same fate as the other 98% of Hollywood actors, yet his phenomenal success as the slow-witted but affable “Benny” may have also been a lasting banishment once the series ran its course. Too long in the same role and the viewing public perceives not the actor, but the character. It can be the death knell.

Larry Drake went on to fill some interesting roles, including that of Darkman, but ultimately he was retired to an undeserving stereotype that was genuinely the diametric opposite of who he truly was. But at least he has his proverbial fifteen minutes, but in my opinion, for the wrong role.

Yet apart from his film and theatrical aspirations, Larry Drake was a normal, kind and unassuming guy. And yet fascinating at the same time.

I’m sorry Larry flew away before I got a chance to pretend to insult his intelligence one last time. He was inordinately clever and often hard to keep up with since his inordinately large head held more grey matter than the rest of us.

Jusqu’à ce que je te revois , mon ami.

Joshua McGowan