Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’
Your correspondent is back from a sojourn in the country third most visited by foreign tourists. By contrast, inveterate traveler Gunnar Garfors– he has visited 196 of the 198 countries (193 UN members, the Vatican, Kosovo, Palestine, Western Sahara, Taiwan); he set a world record by visiting 5 continents in 1 day on June 18, 2012 using only scheduled transport– has been rounding out his roster by focusing on less-beaten paths. For instance…
Nauru: 200 tourists (2011)
Why so few?
Nauru is a tiny island nation in the Pacific. The smallest republic in the world covers only 21 square kilometers. There is almost nothing to see there as most of the island (there’s only one) is a large open phosphate mine. Only one airline serves the island. You also need a visa to be allowed in, and the country doesn’t have many embassies abroad.
Why you may still want to visit
The beaches surrounding the island are beautiful and “proper” Pacific style. The coral reefs surrounding Nauru makes it great for diving or fishing. There are however only 10,000 people in the country, huge unemployment and virtually no nightlife. There are two hotels, one “posh” on the beach and one “in town.”
This is the only country in the world without a capital. Yaren is the biggest community, and therefore acts as the de facto capital. There’s even an internet cafe next to the police station, so you can update your statuses. The problem is that hardly anyone even heard about the place, so you are unlikely to get any praisal. Expect “Nauru? Is that upstate?” responses. Why not run around a country?
Check our Gunnar’s annotated list of “The Twenty-Five Least Visited Countries in the World,” and follow his travels here.
Readers might also appreciate the intrepid travels of Chris Guillebeau, “the travel hacker”– who’s also visited all 193 U.N. member nations… in Guillebeau’s case, largely free…
As we choose our Desert Island Discs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1859 that 23-year-old Samuel Langhorne Clemens got his steamboat pilot’s license after two years as an apprentice. During his two years as a pilot (until the Civil War curtailed commercial steamboat traffic) Clemens got to know Captain Isaiah Sellers, by that time the most famous riverboat Captain working the Mississippi. Sellers was the first person to use the pseudonym, “Mark Twain,” an appropriation of the boatman’s call noting that the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation. When commercial riverboats were suspended, Sellers retired, and Clemens headed west, where he “borrowed” the pen name “Mark Twain” for the works (starting with “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” AKA “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”) that made him famous.
Over at the New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey has a fascinating– and illuminating– review of Ellen Gruber Garvey’s Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, in which the author makes the case that scrapbooks—which everyone seems to have kept during the nineteenth century—“are the direct ancestors of our digital information management.”
There are examples of politically-focused compendia (Garvey’s primary interest), but also wonderful tastes of more artistic applications: Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman… and Mark Twain:
Mark Twain was perhaps the king of American scrapbook culture. According to the OED, he was the first writer to use “scrapbook” as a verb, writing in 1881 about the origins of his book A Tramp Abroad, “I scrap-booked these reports during several months.” Prolific in inventing ways to lose money, especially in his attempts to predict how books would be published in the future (not, he found to his chagrin, with type fashioned from clay), Twain successfully marketed his own patented design for a more efficient scrapbook, outfitted with no-muss adhesive pages and an index awaiting entries. Twain’s scrapbook can be seen as the ancestor of the lavish “Keeping Memories Alive” scrapbook industry today, with its glitter and fluff and hobby stores…
Twain’s loose and baggy non-fiction books Roughing It, The Innocents Abroad, and A Tramp Abroad were assembled from his own carefully maintained travel scrapbooks, and retain some of the pleasingly serendipitous and fragmented feel of life on the road.
Still, as Twain’s buddy William Dean Howells noted, “anyone may compose a scrapbook, and offer it to the public with nothing like Mark Twain’s good-fortune. Everything seems to depend upon the nature of the scraps, after all.”
Readers can find the whole story (before they hop over to Pinterest) at “Scrapbook Nation.”
As we reach for the paste, we might recall that it was on this date in 1750 that the first professional theatrical production of a Shakespeare play– an “altered” version of Richard III– was mounted in New York City at its first formal performance space, The Theater on Nassau Street. Sitting just east of Broadway, it was a two-story wooden hall with a capacity of about 280. Actor-managers Walter Murray and Thomas Kean set up shop there, and opened with the Bard. But their repertory also included the first documented performance of a musical in New York – John Gay’s The Beggars Opera, which they premiered on December 3rd of that same year.
The late Seventies re-imagined: from artist Dave Perillo (AKA montygog), a look at what might have happened if two paragons of Punk had instead gone the Hanna Barbera route…
As we contemplate the consolations of a cel out, we might send trenchant birthday wishes to two of history’s most acute observers of the human condition: Jonathan Swift, the satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and cleric who’s probably best remembered for Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal, was born on this date in 1667.
And Samuel Langhorne Clemens– Mark Twain– the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and its sequel, “The Great American Novel” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was born on this date in 1835.
Swift ultimately rose to high church office, serving as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Clemens did not.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”*…
There are over 1 million words in the English language; still, all too frequently, one can’t find just the right term… One can, of course, turn to other languages for le mot juste. And happily, our friends at Mental Floss have provided a list to jump start the process; e.g.,
The act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking.
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, “grief bacon.”
Thirteen more precisely-right words at “15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent.”
* Mark Twain
As we add a Larousse to our Roget’s, we might send tasty birthday wishes to Henry John Heinz, the gifted marketer who founded H.J. Heinz Co.and coined its “57 varieties” slogan. By age 12 he was peddling produce from the family’s Pittsburg garden. At 25, in 1869, he and a friend launched Heinz & Noble; its first product: Henry’s mother’s grated horseradish, bottled in clear glass to reveal its purity. Heinz & Noble thrived until the bumper crops of 1875 tanked prices and led to bankruptcy. But Heinz plunged back in, this time solo, eventually building a model factory complex along the Allegheny River. By 1896, “The Pickle King” had become a millionaire and celebrity.
The first Cynics (we capitalize the name when we’re talking about the ancient ones) were students of a now-obscure philosopher named Antisthenes, who in turn was a student of the illustrious Socrates. Like Socrates, the Cynics believed that virtue was the greatest good. But they took it a step further than the old master, who would merely challenge unsuspecting folks to good-natured debates and let their own foolishness trip them up.
The Cynics were more blunt when it came to exposing foolishness. They’d hang out in the streets like a pack of dogs (“Cynic” comes from the Greek word for dog), watch the passing crowd, and ridicule anyone who seemed pompous, pretentious, materialistic or downright wicked. Fiercely proud of their independence, they led disciplined and virtuous lives. The most famous of the ancient Cynics was Diogenes, who reportedly took up residence in a tub to demonstrate his freedom from material wants. This cranky street-philosopher would introduce himself by saying, “I am Diogenes the dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels.” He’d use a lantern by daylight, explaining that he was searching for an honest man. Even Alexander the Great didn’t escape unscathed. When the young conqueror found Diogenes sitting in the marketplace and asked how he could help him, the old philosopher replied that “you can step out of my sunlight.”
Bayan, who believes that cynicism is as important today as ever, has created The Cynic’s Sanctuary, one of whose fascinating features is the Cynic’s Hall of Fame; arranged chronologically, by date of birth, it begins with…
Aesop (c. 600 B.C. ) Was he real or legendary? We’re not absolutely sure. Aesop may have been a slave who lived on the Greek isle of Samos; it’s said that he was slain by irate priests at the Oracle of Delphi. (He probably got himself into hot water by mocking their beliefs.) His works weren’t assembled into book form until about eight centuries after his time. No doubt numerous ancient storytellers added to the collection along the way. But the reputed author of the world’s most famous fables — man or legend — has to stand as literature’s great proto-Cynic. His brief moral tales are sharp allegories of human folly — even when the characters are foxes, crows, mice, tortoises and hares. Aesop’s Fables teem with the wisdom and gentle mockery of someone who knows the human animal inside and out (especially our weaknesses). If you think Aesop is just for children, think again — and read him again.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
The roster continues through the expected (e.g., Rabelais, Voltaire, Mark Twain) and the not-so-expected (Jesus, Shakespeare, Schopenhauer)…
In times like these, it’s comforting to know that one can take refuge in The Cynic’s Sanctuary.
As we memorize our Mencken, we might recall that it was on this date in 1780 that General Benedict Arnold betrayed the US when he wrote British General Sir Henry Clinton, agreeing to surrender the fort at West Point to the British army. Arnold, whose name has become synonymous with “traitor,” fled to England after the plot fell through. The British gave Arnold a brigadier general’s commission with an annual income of several hundred pounds, but only paid him £6,315 plus an annual pension of £360 because his plot had failed. After the Revolutionary War, Arnold settled in Canada, and turned his hand to land speculation, West Indies, trade, and privateering– none of them very successfully. He died in 1801.