Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Yellowstone Meander


  1. A bit early, but thought we should have a new meander for the weekend since the other one quickly filled up. The photo source says this is the Hayden Valley which sounds right. I'll check when I'm down there.....

  2. Wasn't sure if I was going to have internet here, so put this meander up early, but have a faint signal from the main lodge. So I'll meander away.....

    I'm probably the last person here to read this but I listened to The Hemingses of Monticello driving down yesterday -- amazing book! I can't wait to keep listening to it.

    Like Sandweiss, who did the bio of King I also enjoyed, she is writing about a time/people who left little record. But unlike Sandweiss who guesses, supposes, imagines, etc. out loud, this writer dives right in and weaves a story from bits and pieces that are totally convincing.

    I wish I had brought the book itself along, which I also own, so I could keep going in it, but then I would never finish Muir, which I'm also really enjoying.

    Plus, this meeting also provides all the papers in advance so that you can discuss them, not listen to them, so I have my hands full in any event. Read four last night for this a.m.'s meeting. They are all on aspects of economic history which is fascinating to read about from disparate points of view.

  3. Are you staying right in the park?Must be a great time of year to be in Yellowstone.Say hi to Yogi and Boo Boo if you see them.

  4. Nice photo. I just watched Tuesday's installment of Ken Burns' National Parks. I envy your being there in Yellowstone.

    I read The Hemingses a few months ago. It was the most vivid writing of plantation culture that I have read. Saw her on BookTV last weekend. She will be writing another book taking this farther with the Hemingses. No promise yet of when she will be finished and book published.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the Hemingses book as well, Marti. I was telling a colleague about it over dinner and was surprised by how specific my descriptions were -- she really is a good writer!

    I'm driving through the Park this a.m. to Gardiner which may take a couple hours and will listen to more of it -- although once inside the Park it's sometimes hard to concentrate on a book.

  6. John, I'm staying just north of West Yellowstone at the 320 Ranch. Wonderful place for a meeting if you are ever looking for some out of the way location.

    This is the second one I've attended here -- they discuss four papers in the a.m., break for lunch, and then have trail rides or whatever in the afternoon. Then we reconvene at dinner for some sort of presentation or -- mostly -- drinks. I used yesterday afternoon to start my review of Brinkley.

    They bring in historians from all over. The first one I attended was on the Atlantic World. This one is on the decline of economic history co-hosted by Stanford classicists, so NY, it's an odd mix of topics, but they all focus on the utility of economic approaches. There are even two economists here.

    The most interesting paper so far from my perspective was on the link between the sale of pianos for Victorian parlors to the slaughter of elephants which led to major ecological changes in Africa which helped the growth of the tsetse fly.

    There's also some one here from Boston College who writes about economic history in India, and some classicists who are talking about status vs money in Ancient Greece. Wild mix, but it all comes together somehow. Plus, it's always good to be around this level of thinking and scholarship. These are all "draft" papers, so the discussions are often in depth about their strengths, weaknesses, etc. Good for the head.

  7. "the link between the sale of pianos for Victorian parlors to the slaughter of elephants which led to major ecological changes in Africa which helped the growth of the tsetse fly"

    This brings to mind that wonderfully entertaining if (or because) a bit loony Brit, James Burke, who had the 2 (?) PBS series called "Connections." Makes you wonder if the paper's author might have been exposed as a young'un.

  8. Ah, av, you are really making me homesick for the "West!"

  9. Gintaras, you should bring your family out to Yellowstone and maybe the parks in the Southwest for your next US trip.

    I only watched the first 1 1/2 of the Burns series, but I agree with them that the original western parks are really magical places and sort of anti-American in their shared heritage.

  10. NY, the discussion following that paper was fascinating since it went into all sorts of questions of causality and evidence. His point was that consumption, which was the overarching topic of that session, can drive environmental and ecological change in ways that link the world in unexpected ways. The rise of the tsetse fly also impacted British imperialism in Africa. It's been a very interesting meeting. You put together a room of big egos and sparks fly, but it usually is in a positive way.

  11. Listened again to the Hemingses book to and from the archives -- it is so good!

    What amazes me is the freedom of movement that Jefferson gave the Hemings siblings. She's no apologist for Jefferson but he comes off as much more enlightened than I expected when it comes to the treatment of his slaves (or I should say the treatment of the Hemingses who came to him from his wife's family -- he also appreciated another slave family that I think he purchased).

    She also shows the strange familial interactions that these "mixed race" people lived with on a day-to-day basis. Did for example James or Robert mourn the loss of Jefferson's youngest daughter who was their half niece? Did they recognize that familial bond?

    I'm loving this book.

  12. Back in 1999, I did take my family West. On our cross-country trip we stopped to see Carlsbad, El Morro, Canyon de Chelley, the Hopi Mesas, the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake. Only so much you can take in at one time. We'll do Yellowstone next time.

  13. Sounds like it's time for another visit!

    I watched the rest of Ken Burns' part 2 last night and it was interesting to see TR in action. Made me realize how much of an opportunity Brinkley lost.

    Any new book ideas anyone? I'm half way into Muir now and about one third into the Hemingses -- what a book that one is!

  14. Halfway into Muir? Do you have other examples of his rather bizarre behavior in his youthful forays (some were in the 1st Burns episode, but I can't now recall specifics).

    Some of the people portrayed in the series definitely experienced "wilderness" in ways I cannot imagine--in fact, I wearied of hearing natural formations and phenomena referred to as "cathedrals"--very much a human endeavor, to my way of thinking.

  15. What I vaguely knew about Muir but only really came to understand in Worster's book was how Muir was an engineer at heart. He made several inventions that threw him out of bed in the morning, threw water in his face, cascaded books in some sort of order to be sure he read them all for school, etc. He also came up with some invention to make brooms more efficiently. Worster reproduces many of his drawings which remind me a little bit of Da Vinci.

    He was injured in a factory accident in which he thought he was permanently blinded which set him out on a different path when he recovered his eyesight.

    He then walked all the way to Florida where he got sick -- typhoid I think -- which made him go West in search of better weather and where "nature" wouldn't do him in.

    Fascinating person. A lot more complex and interesting than I realized.

  16. The cathedral business was in response in part to Europe's grand castles and cathedrals -- i.e., Europe had a grand past and a built history to visit. But America had grand landscapes that were "God's cathedrals" to visit instead. See America first as they said.

    Plus, Worster shows how Muir followed in the tradition of Wordsworth, seeing God in nature. So for him, Yosemite was his own personal cathedral.

  17. Thanks, avrds, sorry I was flip and thanks much for the info.

  18. No apology needed! This is my quasi-profession but I have to admit I tired of it quickly, too. I gave up on watching it. A little too over the top for me. When Duncan started tearing up about seeing "new land," that was it. I'll buy the set at some point to watch it as I can and/or need it, but it's back to Sherlock Holmes for me. (That's way over the top, too, but it's intended to be.)

  19. Sherlock Holmes? What'd I miss?

  20. A little more Lincoln:

    Nice slide show with this story.

  21. While I don't agree with all of this -- what is "win the war" in any event -- Pape is the one who has always made the most sense to me. And he actually researches the problem as opposed to make gross generalizations about fanatic religion or whatever.

    In any event, it's the occupation that fuels terrorism as his research time and again has proven. Hopefully Obama is reading this.

  22. I'm now reading three books -- unusual for me. I can't let go of The Hemingses so am listening to it as I drive around town. Amazing book.

    Also doing a quick read of Egen's book Big Burn as research for my fire history. It brings all the players together (totally unrelated to the fire): Pinchot, Muir, TR, etc. so that's been interesting. But otherwise so far it's a pretty light weight book. If I'd known writing history could be so simple I could have skipped the doctorate!

    In the meantime, Muir is on hold, but I'll get back to him. Another good book.

  23. I think I will get the Muir book, but can't commit to it anytime soon. Just don't have the time right now to concentrate, which was why I put down the TR book. Should be able to come up for air after this weekend.

  24. Not a problem, Gintaras. I have a whole list of fire-related books to read in the meantime. After Egan, which is for me how I think River of Doubt was for you, then I'm reading Pyne's book on the 1910 fire -- Pyne is the leading "fire historian."

    Then it's on to Norman Maclean's book Young Men and Fire which is about another big regional fire. It's supposed to be very good, and I've never read it.

    I'm driving over to Spokane for the day so hope to close in on the Hemingses -- I'm about half way through right now. It's 25 or 26 CDs.

    I have never read/listened to a book quite like this one. Her ability to fully imagine, as a novelist might, the world in which these young people lived is extraordinary. And yet it never strikes me as "made up." I'll have to read a couple of the chapters to see how they read on the page at some point and to see how she documents all of this.

    But in the meantime listening to it is wonderful. I don't think I've ever listened to a book on tape that is so engaging.