Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worth Reading

No. Probably not this blog, but here are some suggestions from other authors out there.

Read David Quammen's "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution" Or at least something from David Quammen. Soon. Quammen's style is captivating and his use of language hilarious. It boggles my mind, how people can write like that. If you haven't read his stuff, I suggest reading excerpts from his years of writing for Outside Magazine that can be found in "Animal Antics" or "The Boilerplate Rhino." Or just start with "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin." If you like to hear or read about peoples' lives and their story, then you'lll love it. Darwin has become an idea or an icon or a "controversial figure" or something that makes people argue. He was a man. A man with a wife and kids and problems and loss and pain and struggles just like everybody else. He happened to be good at thinking carefully about patterns and asking good questions and he happened to vomit a lot from stress, especially from social interactions. It is Quammen's dealings with Darwin's life, struggles and thoughts that make the read suitable for everyone. For example, we know that he spent 8 years working on barnacle taxonomy, but it's his life in those years which is so interesting (not that barnacle penises, among other barnacle parts, are not interesting -- they are--think about it......if your bottom is glued to the side of a ship how you gonna mate or even find a mate? It's a stretch, but think about it.). Darwin didn't think he would spend 8 years on barnacles, but he was driven to be thorough, so much so that when Darwin's young son visited another child's home, the boy asks where his friend's father "did his barnacles." Indeed, Darwin worked on the ideas for The Origin of Species for over 20 years before being "forced" to write it all down quickly as a "rough" abstract (250 pages or so) that became one of the most influential books in science. Outside of barnacles and the origins of species, Darwin did have a life to lead and Quammen's treatment of Darwin's personal life is what is captivating. The loss of his 10 year old daughter Annie, the child that he was closest to and who's company he loved (they would go on his daily walks together and he would let her brush his hair and make him up), had a profound impact on him. He wrote, "We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age: she must have known how we loved her... how tenderly we do still." Outside of the loss of two young children, their son Charles also died young, Darwin and his wife Emma's greatest struggle was a fundamental difference of belief: Darwin lost his religious faith, becoming agnostic (a word created by a friend of his), while Emma remained a devoted Christian. It pained Darwin greatly knowing that his beliefs were very hard on Emma. Despite this seemingly huge difference, their letters and personal journals attest to the intense love and devotion that they had for each other throughout their marriage; she did not faulter in her love and devotion to him and he did not faulter in his for her. The extensive scientific and personal writings from Darwin truly allow some understanding of the man not just the ideas that he developed. Toward the end of his life, Darwin wrote about carnivorous plants and earthworms and when he finally had a grandchild, and he thoroughly enjoyed playing with him, he began writing an autobiography. In this case, he did not refer back to his extensive of notes from his life, but, instead, wrote a personal essay based on his perspective at the twilight of his life. He intended it to be read only by his family. Do people write for their family anymore? I don't think that most of us probably write enough. Too much work, I guess. We blog and email, call and text, instead. I guess down the road we may have records like "WHT U UP2" and other fascinating texts that we can use to explore your inner depths, but it would be good to have more. If you have people that care, write something for them. Maybe they'll want to know. Maybe they won't. They'll at least have the option.

I travel with a bookmark that I received from my friend, Balthazar, long ago. It's relevant to my travels and it reads:

Un Amigo
Es Una Cosa
Para
Guardarse
Del Lado
izquierdo
del pecho
Asi el teimpo
Y la distancia Italic digan no

Milton Nascimento

Figure out what it says (hint: it's Spanish). Cosa = thing; izquierdo= left; pecho = chest; digan = speak

You can try something like babelfish to help you translate it. By the way, the babelfish is a creation from Douglas Adams' book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors. If you are into conservation biology and you love people that can write well and make you laugh, even on serious topics, then read Douglas Adams' "Last Chance to See." Of his books, it was his favorite. I think it's brilliant. I laughed outloud (LOL) many times from his clever manipulation of our language.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

When’s the last time I had a good conversation about barnacles? It’s been ages to say the least but I still love the little buggers. Not only can they extend their penises up to 8 times their own body length…that’s right, 8 times their body length. (After all their butts are permanently stuck to rocks, shells, boats so they need to be able to reach their neighbors right?…think about that for a minute.) But they can also make them longer and thinner in light wave and shorter and stouter during heavier waves.

Now you might be asking yourself “how do they make sure they are surrounded by the right sex for mating before adhering to a home?” Simple, Barnacles are hermaphrodites! Brilliant, right?! They can mate with males OR females. Absolutely brilliant. I love the wonders of underwater living.

Now let me just leave you with this little ditty:

So long and thanks for all the fish
So sad that it should come to this
We tried to warn you all but oh dear?

You may not share our intellect
Which might explain your disrespect
For all the natural wonders that
grow around you

So long, so long and thanks
for all the fish

The world's about to be destroyed
There's no point getting all annoyed
Lie back and let the planet dissolve

Despite those nets of tuna fleets
We thought that most of you were sweet
Especially tiny tots and your
pregnant women

So long, so long, so long, so long, so long
So long, so long, so long, so long, so long

So long, so long and thanks
for all the fish

(yeah)

So long and thanks for all the fish
So sad that it should come to this
We tried to warn you all but oh dear?

(oh dear)

Despite those nets of tuna fleets
We thought that most of you were sweet
Especially tiny tots and your
pregnant women

So long, so long, so long, so long, so long
So long, so long, so long, so long, so long

So long, so long and thanks
for all the fish