Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Murder of Crows


I dreamed I was haunted and hunted by a murder of crows; indicted by a parliament of owls and entertained by a gaggle of geese. These are all poetic terms for groups of birds; their origins not completely known. The case of the crows probably is in alignment with the fact that battle fields have been known to be covered with the feasting carrion birds. I’m certain more than one murder victim’s corpse has been found in the same manner. The crows black feathers an ominous symbol of death and their song a cry of pain, far less than alluring. A murder of crows in short has a “ring” that sounds remarkable fitting and ideally distinct.  

The crow is equally arresting in nature and in fiction. Books, film and song feature the resourcefully clever creatures. Aesop was fond of crows and found them useful in many of his illustrious fables, “The Crow and the Pitcher, The Fox and the Crow and The Crow and the Swan” among them. Disney used crows in his feature “Dumbo.” A flock (Disney would never have used the word murder) of crows befriend the distressed elephant; help him to believe in himself and his abilities. Disney’s Crows add humor, song, heart and compassion to the film. The characters were also considered racially offensive and rife with negative stereo-types. They remain debatable. Ralph Bakshi would use crows in a similar but updated manner as did Disney in his adaptation of R. Crumb’s “Fritz the Cat.” Bakshi’s films were much more satirical and “hipper,” they were critical of every aspect of society and culture. Bakshi’s brilliance was equal to Disney’s but drastically different and his target audience the radical chic and the underground covet his land mark films.
Actor Johnny Depp has chosen to wear a hopefully taxidermist crow as a headdress in the currently in theatres version of “The Lone Ranger.” His impressive “Tonto Look” was inspired by a painting by contemporary artist Kirby Sattler. The painting “I Am Crow” is a feat unto itself and Sattler’s fame should increase exponentially with the film’s success. Depp in full makeup is featured on the July 4-8 cover issue of “Rolling Stone” magazine. It will take its place among the many iconic covers from the magazine’s remarkable history of striking covers.

Painter Jamie Wyeth works almost exclusively from nature. He is one of America’s most acclaimed and revered artists.  Crows, along with their cousin’s ravens have found their way onto a number of his canvases. These works are detailed to a flaw and lovely to behold. Wyeth’s crow paintings are successful renderings that illuminate the animal like no others.

                                                    "I Am Crow" by Kirby Sattler


James O’ Barr’s “The Crow” is the telling of a murder victim’s rise from the grave and vigilante style retribution of his own and his bride’s killers. It places Barr among the most revered of the graphic novel form. The original film version released in 1994 starring the late Brandon Lee became legend. Lee’s immersion into the character and his untimely death during the actual filming have made “The Crow” a cult classic that remains engaging and intriguing. The stylistic comic book, gothic-noir look of the movie is unsurpassed to this day. 

In as much as the crow informs and inspires the minds of the creative they are in general among the least popular of birds. Think about the scarecrow…what other bird has a thing named; invented and dedicated just to ward it off. The scarecrow does honestly have a justification in that crows destroy crops and are a general nuisance. There are few that don’t love a singing and dancing scarecrow as portrayed by Ray   Bolger in “The Wizard of Oz” and later by Michael Jackson in the “Wiz.” Crows themselves are by most accounts not the most beautiful of creatures especially considering the vast array of colorful families of known birds. Crows while reviled are actually the cleanest of birds, smart, loving and attentive as parents. 


As I write this blog a giant crow has just landed in a tree above me adjacent to my front porch, we are almost face to face. It is cawing wildly and dangerously close. I have to admit he is a little “too close for comfort.”  I will have to chase him away. It seems that the species is best viewed from a distance or through the interpretation of fiction.  The true scientist would perhaps view this as a rare opportunity and a great vantage point of observation. I do not. Why is it also in this moment of discomfort; this feeling something of ill at ease, with it there is too a strange validation; a degree of union to nature and in its oddity something akin to Poe?    

The Crow and the Pitcher 

 A crow, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a pitcher, which he saw at a distance. But when he came up to it, he found the water so low that with all his stooping and straining he was unable to reach it. So he tried to break the pitcher, then to overturn it, but his strength was not sufficient to do either. At last, seeing some small pebbles at hand, he dropped a great many of them, one by one, into the pitcher, and so raised the water to the brim and quenched his thirst.


Moral: Little by little does the trick