black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.


"The Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. But to understand the genesis of the act, you have to go back another three decades, to the 1930s. During the Great Depression tens of thousands of Americans were put to work by the federal government in national parks and forests. They cleared trails, erected shelters, and laid down mile after mile of pavement. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was opened in 1933, Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in 1939. The new highways opened up the parks to millions more visitors.

But the very success of these efforts troubled many conservationists, who worried that the country’s most majestic landscapes were being turned into so many roadside attractions. A group of them, including Aldo Leopold, got together to defend the national parks and forests against overuse. They called themselves the Wilderness Society, and their first mission statement denounced the roadbuilding “craze.”

“The fashion is to barber and manicure wild America as smartly as the modern girl,” it said. “Our duty is clear.” In 1924, while working with the Forest Service in New Mexico, Leopold had persuaded his superiors to designate 755,000 acres of the Gila National Forest as roadless wilderness. The challenge was to persuade Congress to give that idea national scope.

The Wilderness Act went through more than 60 drafts before it finally passed. It created a new category of federal lands that could be overlaid on the old like a transparency on a map. Congress—and only Congress—could place land in the new category. Once designated as wilderness, a tract would be off-limits to commercial ventures like logging and new mines. It would be available for humans to explore, but not with mechanized vehicles. Horses and canoes are allowed; mountain bikes have been ruled out.

“A wilderness,” the statute observed in surprisingly lyrical terms, is “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The 1964 act set aside 54 such areas.

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt,” President Johnson said after signing the act, then “we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

Since Johnson signed the act, the number of wilderness areas has increased to more than 750. They range from the tiny Pelican Island Wilderness in central Florida, which is just 5.5 acres, to the immense Wrangell–St. Elias Wilderness, which at nearly 9.1 million acres is bigger than Belgium. All told, officially designated wilderness covers 5 percent of the U.S., an area larger than California. The newest wilderness area, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan, was added just this past March.”

"There are 758 so far in 44 states, covering 5 percent of the U.S.—a total of 110 million acres. Wilderness areas are in national parks or on other federal land, but they have added protection: In general no roads, vehicles (even bikes), or permanent buildings are allowed.”

50 Years of Wilderness | NG

11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America (via Google Translate)

Our custom is to kiss before, during, and after each social encounter, with 1, 2, 3, or 4 kisses. This is not the custom in the United States. For a friend, we will hug, with a great tapping on the back and a big smile. For colleagues, greet with a good handshake. Americans have a firm handshake, so do not hesitate to grind their knuckles. It is also a sign you have confidence in yourself.

Be prepared for an onslaught of friendliness. You may be approached by a stranger on the street asking you where you got your coat. Passersby greet each other cheerfully in the street. Your neighbor may compliment you on the curve of your muscles, and the cashier at the supermarket may ask you what you are doing with this beautiful weekend (and the three cases of rosé you’ve purchased).” 

A passerby stumbles and sprawls in the street, an old lady can barely control Brutus at the end of a leash, a small tricycle driver loses control of his vehicle. Politeness means, of course, that you come and help all these people. American culture wants you to quit all your activities and rescue the unfortunate. In America, you cannot pretend to not have noticed all these little quirks. You must rush to provide assistance to all who need it.” 

Americans eat and drink anything and at any time of the day: in the street, in a meeting at work, in the car, on the subway, in the elevator, the movies … So, there are drink rests everywhere: cinema seats, baby strollers, shopping carts at the supermarket, in cars, some bike handlebars.”

Rejoicing in the presence of children or pets. This is the correlate of “smile to strangers,” it is mandatory to have a smile or a little “how cute” tilt to your head if you come across a child or pet. Even if they are ugly.” 

Crossing the road as a pedestrian is not always easy, you often have to wait for ages. When the white man is on, you can cross. And then a stressful countdown shows the time remaining for you to cross, sometimes only a few seconds to cross large avenues.”

“‘Inspiring’ became a word I heard every day: everything must be ‘inspiring’ and push transcendence. We go to the movies, there is a choice between the biopic Lincoln, the Avengers or Misérables, each so inspiring in their own way. The books are inspiring, everyday people are inspiring (such as all the people with children and a job at the same time, teachers, etc…). I confess that I have a little trouble with this cult of everyday heroes.”

If you want privacy (in a public restroom), no chance. There are no real walls, only partitions that do not even go to the ground. So you can see the shoes of your colleagues, hear all the noises … And even the doors do not help much. You can see the faces of the occupants through the slits in the doorway.”

Read on: Mental Floss

In 1776, America didn’t have a single textile mill. There were no spinning mules, no water-powered looms. There were only rumors of what such things might look like and a few nonfunctioning models built from those rumors. Nearly every American woman, except the wealthiest, knew how to spin her own yarn and weave her own cloth, even as across the Atlantic women were moving out of the home and into millwork as England — bent on protecting its export market by safeguarding its trade secrets — industrialized the manufacturing of textiles.

Samuel Slater was 14 when he began working at a cotton-spinning mill in Derbyshire, England. Seven years later, in 1789, he disguised himself as a farmer to pass English customs and board a ship to the United States. When he arrived in America, he got a mechanized loom up and running, then a textile factory and later factory towns, eventually becoming known as both Slater the Traitor and the father of the American Industrial Revolution.”

A century ago, there were more than 800 businesses related to textile manufacturing in Philadelphia alone; today there are around a hundred.

Christopher Payne has spent much of the past few years photographing more than 20 of the mills that make up what’s left of America’s textile industry.”

Read on: Fruits of the Loom

©2011 Kateoplis