Posts Tagged ‘The New Yorker’

The Pencil

October 23, 2010

Harold Ross, the legendary founder and editor of the world’s best magazine, The New Yorker, was renown for his tightness when it came to office supplies and equipment. When E.B. White, probably the best writer at the world’s best magazine, was late with a piece, Ross sent him a note that said:

Mr. White:

If you get that story done, I’ll take steps to get you a new cushion for your chair.

H.W. Ross

Harold Ross in the Copyright-Expired Olden Times

On another occasion Ross bumped into Dorothy Parker, also a staff writer, at a restaurant and asked her why she wasn’t back in the office working. She responded, “Because someone was using the pencil.”

That’s been the problem here at The Fat Finch lately. Every time I sit down to write a post somebody else has the pencil.

Heedless, the wild world marched on without taking the slightness notice of the paucity of Fat Finch posts. Billions of birds migrated and are already on their winter feeding grounds. The southern hemisphere, now grabbing most of the sunlight falling on the planet, also has most of the birds. The Rocky Mountains are hunkered down, awaiting the first blast of winter, which is late this year. Most of the Aspens north of New Mexico have shed their leaves and stand naked now, awaiting cold north winds and the storms that the jet stream will soon blow their way. Rocky Mountain Aspen have had a good year. SAD, “Sudden Aspen Decline” seems to have slowed and fewer trees died this year. And we humans seem to have isolated the cause of SAD: drought and heat. And that’s not good news in the long run, the world keeps getting warmer and the southwestern United States keeps getting drier. Someone has even noted that the value of municipal bonds in the southwest may decline as worries about water supplies increase. Phoenix may have all the water rights it needs, but you can’t drink water rights.

It’s been raining in San Diego and that means the jet stream has finally begun its autumn meanderings above the earth and the Bermuda High is horsing around south of the Azores. Up in the Yukon the mainly birdless trees are thinking of Robert Service who wrote in his poem, “The Pines”:

We sleep in the sleep of ages, the bleak barbarian pines;

We pillar the halls of perfumed gloom;

We plume where the eagles soar;

The North-wind swoops from the brooding Pole, and our ancients crash and roar; . . .

Gain to the verge of the hog-back ridge where the vision ranges free;

Pines and pines and the shadow of pines as far as the eye can see;

A steadfast legion of stalwart knights in dominant empery.

Sun moon and stars give answer: shall we not staunchly stand,

Even as now, forever, wards of the wilder strand,

Sentinels of the stillness, lords of the last, lone land?

It is so cold and dark in the wintertime Yukon that even the air tries to escape, blowing southward in the autumn; helping the Yukon’s Peregrine Falcons on their way to Chile, 8,000 miles away. They make the trip in about sixty days, averaging between forty and sixty miles an hour. Bereft of falcons, the Yukon River will freeze now and not care at all what I have to say about it.

Our physical store is likewise migrating south this winter, relocating about a mile south of its current location. We’ll update you on that in a future post. But our virtual store will stay where it is. Seasons mean nothing in the world-wide-web. Weather is of no consequence there; only ones and zeroes matter.

And you’ve kept reading. Thank you. We’re hunkering down for winter too, so there will more time to write. Besides, I’ve got the pencil now.

I could use a new chair cushion though.

__________________________

The stories about H.W. Ross come from the October 4, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, in a brief piece announcing that the magazine will now be available as an application on the iPad.

Rachel Carson

April 22, 2010

Today is the 40th “Earth Day.” Over at the New Yorker, where they are celebrating the 85th anniversary of that excellent magazine, they are running a series of articles taken from those eighty-five years of publication. Today, they feature Rachel Carson. Her book, “Silent Spring”, marked the beginning of public awareness that Mother Earth requires attention. The Environmental Protection Agency has published an official history in which it says that its mere existence is the “extended shadow of Rachel Carson.”

Rachel Carson

The first publication of “Silent Spring” came in the pages of the New Yorker which ran three extended excerpts before it was published in 1962. In the first, Carson detailed what happened at Clear Lake, California. Clear Lake was a popular fishing destination that also constituted perfect habitat for billions of little gnats that annoyed the fishermen. Thinking it would be good to rid the lake of those pests, the authorities decided to spray the lake with DDD, a close cousin of DDT. Three times they sprayed and millions of gnats died.

Unfortunately so did the Western Grebes.

Western Grebe

“The following winter months brought the first intimation that other life was affected; the western grebes on the lake began to die, and soon more than a hundred of them had been reported dead. At Clear Lake, the western grebe is a breeding bird and also a winter visitant, attracted by the abundant fish of the lake. It is a bird of spectacular appearance and beguiling habits, building floating nests in shallow lakes of the western United States and Canada…. Following a third assault on the ever-resilient gnat population, in September, 1957—again in a concentration of one part of DDD to fifty million parts of water—more grebes died . . . .”

By now, we know the rest of the story. As Carson wrote,

“Water, of course, supports long chains of life – from the small-as-dust green cells of the drifting plant plankton, through the minute water fleas, to the fish that strain plankton from the water and are, in turn, eaten by other fish or by birds, mink, raccoons, and man himself, in an endless transfer of materials from life to life. We know that the minerals necessary for all these forms of life are extracted from the water and passed from link to link of the food chains.”

The DDD sprayed to kill the gnats went to the fish where it concentrated and then to the grebes which ate the fish and then died.

All this reminded me of archy the cockroach’s complaint in the poem by Don Marquis called, “Pity the Poor Spider.”

I will admit that some

of the insects do not lead

noble lives but is every

man s hand to be against them

yours for less justice

and more charity

Happy Earth Day.

____________________________

The part of the Carson piece in the New Yorker that you can read without a subscription is here. The entire piece requires a subscription but it’s worth it. Subscribe to the magazine and you get access to the entire eighty-five years of the New Yorker, every article and every cartoon. We read around in back issues the way a dog eats dinner.

What’s more, the New Yorker remains true to its environmental concerns. Elizabeth Kolbert picked up the Carson mantle and carries it forward.

The Western Grebe photo is by Dominic Sherony and graciously made available through creative commons. The photo of Rachel Carson is her USFWS official portrait and is in the public domain.

Cats and Birds

October 6, 2007

Let’s face it: If you love birds and feed them and you love cats and have one, birds are going to die in your yard. You can do things to help, of course. You can put the feeders in one yard and try to keep the cat out of that yard. You can purchase cans of compressed air that hiss when a cat goes by. You can try to keep the cat indoors and you can even go to the extreme of having the cat’s claws removed. However, as you can see from this link even that won’t always work. (Note: The original link to The New Yorker is broken this morning so the link is to a You Tube video which has two cartoons. The cat cartoon, “Dirty Harry” is the second of the cartoon and starts  20 seconds into the video.)


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