The occupation of Arkansas

source: photographer unknown

Traveling through Arkansas last spring, I tried to wrap my head around the Civil War as it played out there.

Like, what happened here?  At some point did a Union army march through here?

In Arkansas in 1860, there were 435,450 total residents counted in the census.

Of these, 111,115 or about 20% were slaves.

There were 11,481 slaveowners in Arkansas.

And 144 free colored people.

Much of Arkansas at that time was wilderness.  The big plantations were down in the Delta, the low bottom country in the south and east of that state, along the alluvial Mississippi floodlands, seen here on Raven’s excellent topographical map.

Here on the 1861 Coast Survey map of slave population, we can see where Arkansas slaves were:

Everyone needs a getaway once in a while. A getaway from the job, the house, the day-to-day routine and yes, even those that mean the most to us – our families.

reads the copy on this guide to touring the still-standing plantation houses of Arkansas.  Presumably a getaway was not an option in 1860 for the 111,115 slaves.

In May, 1861, Arkansas seceded from the United States.  At the secession convention, Isaac Murphy was one of the few no votes:

The convention voted to take Arkansas out of the Union, but Murphy and four other delegates opposed this step. The convention chair called on the five to switch their votes. All four of the other “nay” delegates changed their votes, but Murphy refused. Initially his position was popular in Huntsville, but as the war went on, Confederate sentiment increased.

About a year later, in spring, 1862, Union General Samuel Curtis marched in from Missouri, leading volunteer regiments from Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana (mostly).  At the battle of Pea Ridge he drove back the Confederate forces sent to stop him.

Curtis kept on marching his army across Arkansas, following more or less the course of the White River.

As Curtis marched along, he picked up thousands of freed slaves.

Curtis was stifled in his effort to capture Little Rock by lack of supplies (his guys were pretty much living off the land) and by the forces raised by Confederate general Thomas Hindman.

Gregory J. W. Urwin summarizes:

Hindman’s General Orders Number 17 instructed “all citizens from this district” to organize themselves into ten-man companies under elected captains and start killing Yankees.  An estimated 5,000 men responded to this summons by August 1862.  They may not have been a decisive factor in Samuel Curtis’ failure to take Little Rock, but they aroused the ire of Union forces by picking off sentries and couriers, ambushing small patrols and foraging parties, and firing on gunboats and transports.  Federal commanders announced that they would hold civilian responsible for any guerrilla activity occurring in their vicinity.   When warnings failed to restrain the irregulars, details of Union soldiers and sailors began burning small hamlets or individual houses and barns.  This retributive strategy caused many Arkansans to abandon their homes in the delta and north of the Arkansas River, but it did not suppress guerrilla depredations.

Curtis and his army (and irregular army of freed slaves) crossed the state, and reached Helena, on the Mississippi river.  From there he could be resupplied by river since by now the Confederate river navy had been pretty much destroyed.  Memphis had fallen, giving a clear path along the Mississippi north of Vicksburg.

As for Hindman, he got a fort named after him, at Arkansas Post, where the Arkansas River forks off and heads towards Little Rock.  This was in important spot, and some Confederates from Texas held it until the Union Navy came up there in January, 1863, and blew it away.

Hindman was replaced by Theophilus Holmes

Jefferson Davis begged Holmes to bring his troops out to help relieve the tightening siege at Vicksburg, across the river in Mississippi.  But Holmes had his own problems.  Says Wikipedia (lifting from Walter Hilderman’s biography):

For the most part, the Confederate forces in this remote area were little more than a disorganized mob of militia scattered across all corners of the state. There were few weapons available and even fewer modern ones. The soldiers for the most part had no shoes, no uniforms, no munitions, no training, organization, or discipline, a situation worsened by the fact that many communities in Arkansas had no government above the village level. People did not pay taxes or have any written laws and strongly resisted any attempt to impose an outside government or military discipline on them. Soldiers in the Arkansas militia did not understand the organization of a proper army or obeying orders from above. Even worse, many of them were in poor physical condition and unable to handle the rigors of a lengthy military campaign. Holmes for his part believed that he could muster an army of about 15,000 men in Arkansas, but there would be almost no competent officers to lead it anyway. Further compounding his difficulties were multiple Union armies converging on the state from all sides. In this situation, Holmes wrote to Richmond that if by some miracle, he could organize the Arkansas militia into an army and get them across the Mississippi River, they would simply desert as soon as they got to the east bank.

On July 4, 1863, Vicksburg fell.  On that day, a bit late, Holmes attacked the Union forces at Helena, Arkansas

present day Helena via Google

but they were blasted away both by Union troops in the city and massive gunboats in the river.  A disastrous, pointless defeat, too late to do any good even if it hadn’t failed.

With the fall of Vicksburg (and the last ditch failure at Helena) the Union had control of the entire Mississippi River.  Gen. Fredrick Steele was sent out across the river and into Arkansas:

colorized Steele photo lifted from Colorized Past

Steele and his army of Wisconsins, Illinoisians, and German immigrants arrived in Little Rock by September, 1863.  The Confederate state capitol had been moved to Washington, Arkansas.

When spring began in 1864, Steele marched his army toward Washington, AR. (Here is an excellent map of how this went down).  Steele had something like 7,000 soldiers.  Steele was supposed to eventually meet up, in Shreveport, Louisiana, with General Nathaniel Banks and his 30,000 guys from the Department of the Gulf.

Traveling cross country in this hot and hostile part of the world was not easy.  By the time Steele got to Camden, Arkansas, his guys didn’t have anything to eat, and word reached him that Banks’ army had been stopped anyway.

Steele had with him the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, and he sent them out to collect some food.  At Poison Spring, they were surrounded by the Confederate Second Indian Brigade or Choctaw Brigade.

I’ll let Confederate Colonel Tandy Walker tell the story:

I feared here that the train and its contents would prove a temptation too strong for these hungry, half-clothed Choctaws, but had no trouble in pressing them forward, for there was that in front and to the left more inviting to them than food or clothing—the blood of their despised enemy.

They set on the 1st Kansas Colored.

In all, the 1st Kansas lost nearly half of its numbers.

After this defeat, running out of food, with the planned meetup unlikely to come off, Steele decided to retreat back to Little Rock.  When he got as far as Jenkins Ferry, in the pouring rain, he realized the Confederates were about to catch up to him.  So he had his guys dig in.  Steele’s troops killed some unknown number of the attacking Confederates.

source: JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD

What a mess that must’ve been.  After the turnaround of the Camden expedition, the Union army stayed near their bases in the cities.  Confederate marauders rode all over the place.  Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison led the Unionist 1st Arkansas Cavalry:

Harrison established a network of fortified “farm colonies,” populating them with the families of men who swore to serve in home guard companies.  Anyone living within ten miles of a colony had to join it or was assumed to be a bushwhacker.

I agree with Naval Institute, interviewing Shelby Foote.

Naval History: It has always been frustrating that the Western rivers get hardly any play in Civil War History.

Foote: Well, the whole Western theater gets hardly any play.  I sometimes think that the people in this country who know less about the Civil War than any other one group of people are Virginians.  They may know a little more than South Dakotans, but that’s about all.

They think that the war was fought in Virginia, while various widespread skirmishes were going on out West.  The opposite is closer to the truth

Looking for more info about Jenkins Ferry I found this picture on the Grants County Museum page, seems like the situation in that area has improved.

Most of the Confederate regiments raised in Arkansas served in the western theater.  An exception was the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment was sent to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

When General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, only 144 men of the Third Arkansas remained out of the 1,353 mustered into it from the start of the war

Here is their battle flag.

After the failure of the Camden expedition, the Confederates had about 100 encampments in south Arkansas.  Where do I get that number?  From this incredible book:

This book is a digitized version of the maps Confederate engineer Richard M. Venable made in 1864.  Venable and his guys were only able to reconnoiter the southern 29% of the state.  I’m not sure whether that was because the northern portion was in Union hands and they couldn’t go there, or if that was just the resources they had, at a time when the Confederates in Arkansas were operating in the south, and might have to make moves further south or west.

The maps in this book are incredibly detailed, you can see, for example, which homesteads in Lafayette County had female heads of household, and which were the houses of widows.

Here’s a thorough review of the book.  I was really impressed by it, it’s rare to find historic maps at this level of detail and readability, as the review notes, this was “obviously a labor of love.”  How much need you have in your home for a detailed atlas of 1864 Arkansas is for you to determine, but for me it did make the past come alive.  If you’re doing any traveling in the state of Arkansas and you’ve read this far in HelyTimes, consider investing in a copy.  (hell I’ll loan you mine.)

When did the Civil War really end in Arkansas?  In a special election in 1863, Isaac Murphy was elected governor:

remember me?

He presided until 1868.  By 1874 there was close to an armed conflict over who would run Arkansas, and that was pretty much the end of Reconstruction in the state.

The following 35 governors of Arkansas, ruling for a total of 90 years, were all Democrats, until Republican Winthrop Rockefeller became governor in 1966 defeating James D. Johnson.

Maybe the Civil War ended in Arkansas when federal troops integrated Central High School in Little Rock in 1956-7.

Or maybe it ended with the election of Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.

 


When The World’s On Fire

enjoying Ken Burns Country Music (I guess, I wish it had a table of contents or something).  This is the Carter Family song that’s been on my mind as I read the news!


Las Vegas, USA

Made a brief visit recently.  Whenever I’m in Las Vegas, I have a weird urge to become a degenerate gambler who hangs around the sports book.  Writing things in the racing form with a little pencil, leaning back in one of those chairs at the little desks, crumped up napkins around.  What is the attraction there?  Maybe it’s all the screens covered with numbers and information.  There’s got to be a pattern if I could just figure it out!  Dissolving the self in the hunt for a tiny edge.

baishampayan ghose took this one for the Wikipedia page on “Sports Book”

There are a lot of famous restaurants in Las Vegas these days.  One I’ve returned to is:

Inside New York, New York casino.  They’re not kidding around here, it is straight-up America food:

There are something like twenty beers on tap.  You can admire a sculpture that models the United States:

Half the fun of flying to Las Vegas is having a look at the Mojave:

truly Mars level wastes.  and I say that as a Mojave superfan!


Amsterdam

some cities are like a theme park of themselves.

Amsterdam: a water park?  Blessed with an unusually bright day.  You think of the history.

Took a reading on my altimeter:

The Netherlands.

Books avail at hotel.  At the Rijksmuseum they have Jan Willem Pieneman’s enormous painting of Waterloo.

Detail.


Dispatch from Nairobi

A friend was having a 40th birthday party in Nairobi, an excuse to see what’s up in Africa.

Top down view

On the first morning I was in Nairobi I walked over to the KICC building and went up to the top, 33rd story I believe, where you can stand outside on the exposed helipad.

Going to the top of a tall building at the start of a trip is a tactic I got from Neomarxisme.  He recommends this for first-timers in Tokyo.  Go somewhere high, and take in the vastness of what you’re dealing with in Tokyo.  Then you can begin to appreciate what’s going on.

Nairobi is not as vast as Tokyo.  Nairobi’s population can be estimated at somewhere around 4.5 million people, higher or lower maybe, if we’re counting commuters and outlying areas.  Roughly equivalent to LA.

From the top of the KICC you can see the grasslands of Nairobi National Park.  For LA residents, imagine if Griffith Park had free-ranging giraffe and zebras wandering around.

There is also a dense forest in Nairobi, Karura Forest.  On the fringes of this forest I saw two fairly chill monkeys lolling about. I believe they were Sykes monkeys.  The embassies, the Muthaiga Country Club, impressive and secure houses are along the edges of this forest.

The only other sightseer on the top of the KICC was an African girl younger than me who had me take her picture on an Nikkon camera and also filmed several jubilant videos of herself talking into her phone.  I say she was African because her skin was very dark and her English accented but maybe her home was France or the Netherlands for all I know.  My guess would be she was a tourist or a student from somewhere else.

From the KICC you can see the railyards.  Nairobi was originally a railway town, founded in 1899 to service the British-run Uganda Railway.  The train still runs to Mombasa on the coast but I was told it wasn’t running to Uganda anymore.  “We’re not there yet.”

The KICC building is near Kenya’s Senate and Supreme Court.  In this area, near the CBD (Central Business District) you pass a lot of security checkpoints.  To get near these buildings, you’ll have to talk to someone with a gun.  But none of the people with the guns seemed too anxious.  This is good, I guess?  In Kenya they’re obsessed with having you write down your name in a ledger when you go anywhere.  But supervision of this process always seems indifferent.  What are they ever gonna do with these ledgers, I wonder, with scribbled signatures?  I wonder if there’s some kind of witch doctor / voodoo priestess who would pay for books of signatures for use in rituals, perhaps burning them while drawing on the power of these spirits.  Gotta look into that.

Kenya is in a sort of war with Al-Shabaab and stateless actors in neighboring Somalia (maybe even Somalia itself if we consider that a functioning state with that name).  There have been several dramatic,, extreme acts of terrorism in Nairobi.  The bombing of the US Embassy in 1998 killed two hundred and thirteen people.  Osama bin Laden was in on that one, and maybe we shouldn’t have allowed him to keep living for thirteen more years? In 2013 four gunmen shot up the Westlands Mall, an upscale shopping place.  Seventy-one people dead.  Maybe ghastliest of all was the killing of one hundred forty eight mostly university students in 2015.  That happened outside of Nairobi, at Garissa University.

This article, by Katherine Petrich, about how al-Shabaab and Kenyan slum-dwelling sex workers do business together, I found illuminating.

Given this deeply conservative position inside Somalia, its willingness to cooperate with and reward sex work in Nairobi, where the group is more constrained in its activities, suggests al-Shabaab is a limited, rational organization with concrete territorial aims. It is not a maximalist extremist group prioritizing ideological principles over tangible benefits, and because the group has a state-based goal, it is comfortable supporting or at least engaging with activities that contravene sharia law. An informant remarked wryly, “Al-Shabaab likes [that group of sex workers] very much. They are worth many sins.”

If you’re from the US, can you really criticize another country for its mass shootings?  An Uber driver taunted me that Nairobi is safer than US cities like Chicago.  Uber works well in Nairobi, the drivers were good and showed up when it said.  There seemed to be pretty reliable 3G service to communicate with them.

The columnist / travel writer cliché of quoting the cab driver is well-documented.  I’ve noticed even Paul Theroux does it.  But what’re you gonna do, you know?  These are the Kenyans I ended up spending the most time with.  There we were, may as well get their story.  Traffic can be horrific in Kenya.  Coming into/out of the city in rhythm with regular work hours could leave you crawling for an hour or two.  The grind of that life must be immiserating.  It’s also a sign of a boom, I guess.  Nairobi is exploding.  My host explained to me that it is the NGO/government/development/banking/energy/international business capital for East Africa.  If you’re doing business in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Ethiopia you might have an office in Nairobi.

From the KICC I could see a particularly crowded and chaotic street where it looked like the road itself was fully occupied by stalls and stopped minibuses.  This was the area where Tom Mboya* Road meets Accra Street, and it was full of matutus, private competing independently operated (I think? maybe there’s some kind of informal union?) minibuses that might go as far as Mombasa, plus surrounding businesses.  Around here I popped into a textbook store.  The desire of learning in Kenya seemed intense to me, I went by many stalls selling books on business topics, and schools and colleges.  Even in Kibera slum the kids are wearing school uniforms, and the desire to make money to pay school fees was several times expressed as one of life’s drives.

Karen

In Nairobi there’s a neighborhood called Karen, named after Karen Blixen, real name of author Isak Dinesen, who wrote Out of Africa.  Meryl Streep played her in the movie.

Karen is around where Karen Blixen’s farm was (in fact I sometimes heard the neighborhood called Karenblixenfarm).  It’s funny to me that there’s a neighborhood called Karen, partly becomes of the meme-ing of the name, partly that it’s just cool that a neighborhood is somebody’s first name.  How great would it be if after I’m dead my neighborhood is called Steve?  I remembered reading somewhere that late in life Karen Blixen ate nothing but oysters and champagne, but she also died of malnutrition.  Karen’s farm can be visited, a guide will sit you down and recite some of her biography, and then they’ll show you things like her old wooden toilet.  They don’t let you use that toilet.

The first line of Out of Africa the book, intoned in the movie by Meryl, is “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”  The Ngong Hills where Karen tried to grow her coffee are now spotted with windmills.

Karen’s place

Karen Blixen’s farm was one of the sites on a little tour a Stanley Hotel-recommended driver took me on.  The elephant orphanage was next.  Be advised you can only see the elephants between 11am and noon, unless you pay extra to adopt one I believe.  It’s kind of fun to see young elephants doing their thing but the idea of an elephant orphanage is so sad, and the crowded circle of humans around them kind of unpleasant, so I bailed pretty fast on that.

Next is the giraffe center, where they give you a little bag of molasses-based giraffe treats and you can feed them and feel their rough tongue.  But you can do that in San Diego too.  Across the grass of the giraffe center is Giraffe Manor, where you can stay (pricey) and the giraffes will poke their heads in the window apparently.

Last stop was some kind of depressing zoo where they did have some good venomous snakes but the vibe isn’t very cheery, it’s next to a dreary, unused amusement park.  The girl leading me around, Valentine, asked me if I wanted to hold a snake.  No thanks.  Had she ever used the anti-venom?  Yes, once.  On a snake-handler.

It was about three in the afternoon.  I asked my driver what was next and he said “that’s it.”

The City Outside

On the streets of Nairobi I encountered no more people asking for money than I would in downtown Los Angeles or West Hollywood.  Surprised, before I went, not to find a Tyler Cowen snapshot/bleg for Nairobi.  There’s an active street market scene at most busy corners.  You will find vendors selling boiled eggs served with salsa and small chicken sausages.  None of the street food looked too appealing to me, but around the Nairobi Railway Museum there were some makeshift restaurants that looked like they served goat stews and stuff that I might’ve liked to try if I’d had more time.  Always a challenge when traveling and especially in non-Western places is like figuring out the system, how you order, what the deal is with the line, etc.  This can be kind of fun and always interesting but when you’re traveling you’re often pressed for time or you find yourself kind of exhausted and suddenly very hungry, the cognitive and sensory overload is too high and the fuse is too short to deal. There’s rarely a time I pass a McDonald’s in a busy foreign city and am not at least a LITTLE tempted by the freedom and temporary mental break offered by the dependability there.

Buying, selling, marketing, cooking, eating, sitting, life being lived outside is a striking part of Nairobi, if you’re coming from an American city.  But I can’t declare this especially African or Kenyan, you see this in the cities of Central and South America too.

For two of the nights I was in Nairobi I was in the care of a friend, an American semi-resident.  We ate a dinner at a Peruvian Japanese kind of fusion place on a high floor of shopping structure catering to expats and wealthy Africans.  The following night I was part of a group dinner at 45 Degrees, which my host said made a strong case for being the best restaurant in Nairobi.  The roast pumpkin soup was excellent, and the setting, in what I was told was the owner/proprietor’s own house in an almost country-seeming neighborhood was pleasing.  On the one night I was on my own I ate at Nyama Mama, now a chain with a few locations.  Chicken stew with chapati, totally fine, if I were in Nairobi again I might try Wasp & Sprout.

Got a lot out of Vogue’s Kenyan Cool Girls Guide to Nairobi:

Local style: “It’s in our culture to dress up on Friday, not knowing what kind of party we’ll go to, but the whole crew has to look fresh.”

Gladys Macaria:

Go explore: “My favorite part of the city is downtown. I am lucky as a majority of the stone merchants and gold smiths I work with are based there. There is lots of quirky buildings and you see the real hustlers of Nairobi. Watching them go about their work inspires anyone.”

Muthoni Drummer Queen recommends:

Her spot: “The Nairobi Railway Museum. It’s smack in the middle of downtown. All the old trains no longer in use transport me back to an imaginary time. Its also super cool that a lot of these carriages are now occupied by visual artists with great studios and galleries.”

I missed this gallery area, if it’s still there, though there is a lot of rich street art around the area.  What I found at the Nairobi Railway Museum was rooms full of old train lanterns and the chair Queen Elizabeth sat in, and then old engines parked outside.

Several times in my life I’ve found myself, as I did at the Nairobi Railway Museum, the only customer at the place, sort of dragging out my time and staying longer than my interest would hold because I don’t want to offend the guy who took my ticket by bailing after five minutes without really inspecting the old printed out articles about the man-eaters of Tsavo.

Rift Valley

If you have time for a day trip out of Nairobi, you can pretty quickly be at a vantage point where you can see the Rift Valley.  Something like 35 million years ago the continent of Africa nearly ripped apart along here**.  The African Great Lakes are along this continental cut, and some of the oldest fossil humans and pre-human ancestral primates have been found here too.

One problem I have as a casual iPhone photographer is capturing depth of field, I’m not saying I’m satisfied with this photo, but maybe you can see how quickly and dramatically and how across a vast area the elevation drops along this part of Kenya.

My driver, Samuel, took us out to Hell’s Gate National Park, where you can see zebras and so on.  What was most impressive to Samuel is the immense geothermal workings at Hell’s Gate.  Jonathan Franzen seems sad about the “green” (quotation marks his) energy in Kenya’s national parks in his latest New Yorker piece.  But to Samuel this construction was a miracle.  Samuel kept saying that “they should feature the power plant!” He several times recalled that he’d once taken around an engineer who could explain all the different parts of the geothermal plant.  Maybe he was disappointed that I couldn’t explain anything about it.  It appears I didn’t even take any pictures of it.

In Hell’s Gate there are chunks of obsidian rock lying around everywhere, blown out by the eruptions of Mount Longonot (last one was apparently in the 1860s).  Couldn’t help wondering if our millions-ago ancestors used this stuff for tools.  Made me think of 2001.

On the shores of Lake Naivasha we got some fish.  Samuel told us he’d once been out on a boat on the lake.  You have to pay more if you want a guy with a gun to protect you from hippos.  I passed on a boat ride.

It’s well-known in Kenya that people of Obama’s tribe, the Luo, are very smart because they live on the shore of the lake and eat so much fish.

Here is a roadside vegetable market.  I was told this is called Foolish Market, because the prices are so low.  A bag of potatoes seemed to cost about 100 Ks (a dollar or so).

If I’d had the time to get all the way out to Lake Victoria, would’ve really enjoyed that.  Would’ve required about eight hours of driving.  Instead I lounged by the pool of the Muthaiga Country Club and then took a guided tour of Kibera.

Kibera

Kibera is an enormous slum, supposedly the largest in Africa, a sprawling ramshackle area of shared toilets and tin houses, originally given as a kind of grant by the British to Nubian soldiers in their army.  This might be where you end up if you move to Nairobi from a rural area, renting a small room with a tin roof for $30 a month.

Moses was my guide there, by way of Experience Kibera.  He suggested I bring two bags of rice or sugar as a donation to local single moms, many of whom are HIV positive.

Was sorta bracing myself for this experience, the trash and open sewer scene, leaky roofs, survival-level subsistence is pretty tough but there did seem to be a positive kind of community spirit to be seen in Kibera. Moses’ sense of potential for the future and improvement over a past noted for election-related violence, sexual assault and general bad times was contagious.

Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census reports Kibera’s population as 170,070, contrary to previous estimates of one or two million people.

says Wikipedia.  No one seemed to think in a white guy walking through with his guide was worth staring at, although quite a few kids wanted to say “howareyou” — I asked Moses about this and he said various NGO type people come through all the time, it’s not much of a novelty.

 

When I’ve been describing Nairobi to Americans they often seem interested to hear there’s a Cold Stone Creamery in one of the malls.

Kenyan English, like the English in India, is full of suprisingly rich phrases and constructions.  I noted a few down:

  • re: some bikers who’d died in a flash flood in Hell’s Gate: “these young chaps were still taking selfies”
  • Samuel suggesting that Chinese road loans could be predatory, always qualified with “according to my observation.”
  • Churches called “First Born Of The Holy Spirit” and “Bride of the Messiah”

With the signs of growth everywhere, and the potential for the region, I think real estate in Nairobi would not be a crazy investment, although I don’t think I myself will bother getting involved.  There was much talk of oil discovery in the remote Turkana region, where many of the early man fossils were found.  There are huge gains, it would appear to me, to be made in infrastructure and transportation development both in Nairobi and around the countryside.

Here is a bus themed after Dr. Ben Carson.

* Tom Mboya‘s work with JFK allowed African students in the ’50s and ’60s to study in the US — without him, would Barry Obama have been born?

** this statement not strictly geologically accurate, or at least a geologist would quibble, but for our purposes it’s approximately right I think


Maine and Texas

This one came up on Succession, a fave show. (Had to look it up because I wondered if they were doing a double joke where the guy was attributing Emerson to Thoreau)

Usually I’ll approach with tentative openness the pastoralist, simpler times, “trad” adjacent arguments of weirdbeards but Thoreau here WAY off.  Maine and Texas had TONS to communicate!  Who isn’t happy Maine and Texas can check in?  (Saying this as a Maine fan whose wife is from Texas, fond of both states and happy for their commerce and exchange).  Plus, if Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough, I WANT to hear that, that’s interesting goss!

The “broad flapping American ear” there — a snooty New England/aristocrat attitude we haven’t heard the last of.  These guys are the original elites.  There’s really two classes in America: Americans, and The People Who Think They’re Better Than Americans.  Though they’re a tiny minority the second group wields outside power and influence over the first group.  I’m a proud member of the first group though I admit I have second group tendencies due to my youthful indoctrination in the headquarters of these Concord Extremist Radicals, in fact at their head madrassa.

When you hear America assessed by Better Thans / eggheads, wait for the feint toward fatshaming.  It’s always in there somewhere.  American Better Thans adopted this from Europeans, whom they slavishly ape.  It’s a twisted attitude, designed to take blame away from the Better Thans and their friends in the ownership.

As if it’s Americans fault that they’ve been raised associating corn-based treats with love and goodness!  Or that corn-fatted meat is the easiest accessed protein on offer!  You think that’s more the Americans fault, or the fault of the Better Thans, who manipulate our food system with their only goal creating shareholder value?

Is it the fault of the American that a cold soda is the best cheap pleasure in the hot and dusty interior where they don’t all have Walden Pond as a personal spa?

Thoreau.  Guy makes me sick.

In researching this article I learn about Maine-ly Sandwiches, of Houston.

 

 


Simple desert survival rule

Every summer a hiker or two dies in the California desert.  I pay attention to these stories, and I’ve noticed a common link between them.  Almost every case of someone dying happens when the temperature is over 100 degree Fahrenheit.

At over 100 degrees, some people are just going to drop dead.  It’s like the death zone at high altitude.

Let’s just make 100 degrees a cutoff.

Don’t go for a hike if it’s over 100 degrees.  This seems like a simple rule, but obviously people are not paying attention.  I think it should be on a sign at Amboy Crater, and Death Valley.  Maybe I’ll write the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt.

A possible danger is that Europeans, who love the desert and are perhaps at greater risk there, reckon their temperature in Celsius instead of the logical system where 100 is too hot.  For them, we should spread the word don’t go on a hike if it’s over 37 degrees.