Monday, December 16, 2013

The Rant Concludes...for now....

 These three books were in the photo included with the beginning of this rant.  Here I plan to explain why they are special, then show the connection, in my mind at least, with my campaign against e-readers.  But first, a couple of interruptions.  I've just concluded a very efficient morning of grading papers, so I have the luxury of time to share a few other things going on around Quincy on this sunny winter day - even thought it's not "officially" winter yet. 
Dec. 26: I'm getting back to this a bit late, so some of the passion has worn off.  What I'll write now will serve as notes for a future essay better developed because it's a topic about which the passion will not wane.
My old copy of Adam's Ancestors, by Louis Leakey is a momento as much as it is an interesting anthropology book.  It's a reminder of an exciting visit by Leakey to the University of Florida where I was a biology graduate student in 1963-1965.  Leakey (or his wife) had recently published on a discovery of one of our ancestors that pushed our knowledge of our genus back a million years.
My zoogeography professor, an ornithologist/paleontologist, Dr. Pierce Brodkorb, did not like Leakey, but was given the "honor" of introducing him to the audience.  He ended his gushing introduction with something to the effect "now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the man who set the human species back a million years, Dr. L. S. B Leakey," which was greeted by much gasping and mumbling.  I guess you could say Leakey had the last laugh, as he so often did.  We were obviously expecting his talk to be about his latest Hominid discoveries, but instead he gave a slide show and talk about the insects of Olduvai Gorge.  Also entertaining were Dr. Brodkorb's comments about the event that stretched over the next several zoogeography lectures.  I also remember getting an A on our major research paper for the semester.  Mine was an update of the fossil history of land tortoises whose living forms were in the genus Gopherus.
I probably found this little black book, The Rhythm, in a throw away pile at a library book sale.  Not sure why I picked it up, but it's a hilarious reminder of how recently many of our ideas about gender were absolutely barbaric, that is, stoooopid!  Dr. Latz is known as one of the early popularizers and defenders of the "rhythm method" of birth control.  As a leading Catholic pedagogue, he saw contraception as a mortal sin.  The book, ostensibly based on scientific facts, is really a defense of the "rhythm method" as not sinful.  His argument is quite amazing because to the extent he is blinded by religious convictions, he abandons scientific thinking at key points.  The way his brain works reminds me of the way "scientific creationists" operate.  To put it simply, rather than let accumulation of evidence to determine conclusions, they start with conclusions then make all evidence fit and what doesn't fit is rejected.
To end on a more pleasant note, this 5th-grade reader from the 1920's is a reminder of what elementary school literary education was like before the appearance of dumbed-down Scholastic offerings got into the picture.  Kids were fed a diet of writings by literary greats.  Much more challenging than the typical post-WWII offerings.  This little book has essays, poems, and stories by the likes of Elbert Hubbard, Mary Austin, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Louis Stephenson, William Burroughs, John Muir, - I'm citing these from memory as the book is not in front of me - and many others.  What I found especially fulfilling after picking this book up again after a hiatus of several years, was that it contained writings by at least a dozen authors of natural history writing who are included in the course Dr. Joan Parkin and I recently updated for our class at FRC, English 180, Nature Literature in America.  I'll probaby allude to some of the specific contents of this book in near-future blog posts.

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