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Posts Tagged ‘Wallace Stegner

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation”*…

 

library

 

The librarian greeted me, asked for my name, and scanned a shelf of books along the wall. She pulled one from the collection, and placed it on the counter—but left her hand on the book. She smiled. “Don’t remove this white band,” she said. “Don’t rip it. Don’t touch it. It will cause problems.” I nervously smiled in return. There is nothing more frightening than a confident librarian.

The white band on the book, as fellow devotees of the glorious InterLibrary Loan system know, contains all of the information to facilitate return of the item to the lending library. Removed bands slow down the system. And the last thing that I would ever want to do is hurt, in any way, a system that has been so good to me…

A brief history (and celebration) of the apex of human civilization: “InterLibrary Loan Will Change Your Life.

* Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

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As we disobey Polonius, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that a jealous Robert Frost heckled Archibald MacLeish at a reading of the latter’s poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vt.  Bill Peschel recounts:

The gathering was held at Treman Cottage, and Frost was among the attendees, sitting in the back. It was a time when Hitler was on the ascendant, and the United States was divided between warning against the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy, and those who didn’t want to intervene in another European war. MacLeish was anti-Fascist, and Frost despised MacLeish’s support of Roosevelt.

That night, as MacLeish read from his poetry, Frost began heckling him. “Archie’s poems all have the sametune,” he said in a whisper that could be heard. When MacLeish read the single-sentence poem, “You, Andrew Marvell,” smoke could be smelled. Frost had accidentally, on purpose, set fire to some papers and was beating them out and waving away the smoke.

Most people accepted the story of the accident, and the reading eventually concluded. MacLeish was still the center of attention, and he was asked to read from one of his plays. But Frost was not done with him. As [Wallace] Stegner wrote:

“His comments from the floor, at first friendly and wisecracking, became steadily harsher and more barbed. He interrupted, he commented, he took exception. What began as the ordinary give and take of literary conversation turned into a clear intention of frustrating and humiliating Archie MacLeish, and the situation became increasingly painful to those who comprehended it”. Even Bernard DeVoto, a scholar and friend of Frost, had enough, calling out, “For God’s sake, Robert, let him read!” Frost ignored him, but shortly thereafter, on some pretext, “said something savage,” and left.

Afterwards, Frost’s defenders tried to kick sand over the events. One friend wrote only of “unfounded allusions” and “behavior not proven by fact.” There were people there who didn’t even notice what Stegner saw that night. But baiting MacLeish had caused a permanent rift between DeVoto and Frost. At the end of the conference, when they met and shook hands, DeVoto told him, “You’re a good poet, Robert, but you’re a bad man.”

 

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”*…

 

the_man_who_tried_to_claim_the_grand_canyon_1050x700

 

“I have always said that I would make more money out of the Grand Canyon than any other man.” Ralph H. Cameron, an entrepreneur in both business and politics, desired nothing less than a fortune from the canyon, and did not mind misusing laws—or his influence—to obtain it. From the time he arrived in Arizona in 1883, until he left under a cloud of disapproval after his single term in the Senate ended in 1927, Cameron used mining laws for many purposes other than mining.

Although Cameron began his work in the Grand Canyon legitimately, he drifted away from lawful practices, seeking more power and more money. Cameron wandered from early mines at the Grand Canyon to early tourist trails and eventually to Congress. But his routes repeatedly crossed opponents, from railroad companies to the federal government. He masked personal interests as public-mindedness, a charade hard to conceal forever. Seeing how Cameron bilked the public and opposed federal conservation efforts offers a window to the ways such questionable ethics undermined the public good to feed simple greed…

Ralph H. Cameron staked mining claims around the Grand Canyon, seeking to privatize it. When the federal government fought back, he ran for Senate. The cautionary tale of “The Man Who Tried to Claim the Grand Canyon.”

* Wallace Stegner

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As we contemplate the commons, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Cape Cod National Seashore was created.  Encompassing 43,607 acres– and 40 miles of seashore– on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, it includes ponds, woods and beachfront in the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion in and around the towns of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham.

321px-CCNS_Sign source

 

Written by LW

August 7, 2019 at 1:01 am

Knowing the Distance: More Fun With Numbers…

The Fibonacci sequence describes the golden ratio (or golden spiral), an ideal form found in the more beautiful corners of nature, and much beloved by designers everywhere.

The Fibonacci numbers are the sum of the previous two numbers in the sequence, starting with 0 and 1:  0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…

A Fibonacci spiral created by drawing circular arcs connecting the opposite corners of squares in a Fibonacci tiling; this one uses squares of sizes 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and 34. (source)

It turns out that the Fibonacci sequence also neatly matches the relationship between kilometers and miles. Three miles is five kilometers, five miles is eight kilometers, eight miles is 13 kilometers.  It’s not perfect: eight miles is actually 12.875 kilometers– but it’s close enough in a pinch.

If one needs to convert a number that’s not in the Fibonacci sequence, one can simply break out the Fibonacci numbers, convert, and add the answers.  For instance, 100 can be broken down into 89 + 8 + 3, all Fibonacci numbers. The next numbers are 144, 13, and 5, which add up to 162. 100 miles is actually equal to 160.934 kilometers.  But again, close enough.

photo: Matt Hampel

[TotH to MNN]

Special bonus arithmetic amusement:  the quadratic equation, explained (as though) by Dr. Seuss.

As we marvel at math, we might wish a Happy Birthday to a master of “numbers” of a different sort; author and prankster Ken Kesey was born on this date in 1935.  While at Stanford in 1959 (studying writing with Wallace Stegner), Kesey was a paid volunteer in CIA-funded LSD trials (Project MKULTRA), an experience that informed his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and that inspired him to form the “Merry Pranksters” and embark on the cross-country school bus trip memorialized in Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

“Leave no turn unstoned.”

source

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