This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, September 24, 2021.
Are we eating ourselves toward extinction? Possibly, according to Dan Saladino, who has given a lot of thought to this question and has written a book about it. (Here is a short article in The Guardian in which he focuses on this question.)
As I read the article, I began thinking about the increasing homogeneity in our world, our lives, and our culture. Consider what Saladino has to say in this regard: “ . . . the source of much of the world’s food – seeds – is mostly in the control of just four corporations; half of all the world’s cheeses are produced with bacteria or enzymes manufactured by a single company; one in four beers drunk around the world is the product of one brewer; from the U.S. to China, most global pork production is based around the genetics of a single breed of pig . . . ”
These concentrations are, in part, the product of the good intentions of post-World War II leaders who wanted to provide cheap food for the globe’s growing population. Part of the cost was a decrease in diversity and localization of food. Do we need to re-capture this diversity? Is there a way to do that and still provide food? Intriguing and important questions.
Have a great weekend.
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Ernest Shepard, the man who drew Pooh and Toad, Ratty and Mole
Two of the most beloved books in the history of children’s literature are Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, published in 1926, and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908. Besides their British authorship and their bringing to life anthropomorphic characters that attained special attachment to children, they have one additional characteristic in common.
Shepard was the first illustrator of the Pooh stories, having met Milne in 1923 after the author had become dissatisfied with illustrations submitted by other artists. Milne, already well known as a playwright, poet, and essayist, put together a set of children’s verses and stories titled When We Were Very Young and submitted them to Punch magazine, where he had once been an assistant editor. The set was due to be published as a book, but an editor suggested some be published by Punch and also suggested Shepard as the illustrator.
When Milne saw the drawings that Shepard produced, he was enthusiastic about them and wanted Shepard to illustrate the entire book. The book sold extremely well in both Britain and America during its first year in 1924. It went through four re-printings.
When We Were Very Young was followed two years later by Winnie-the-Pooh, and Milne went to great lengths to make sure that Shepard was the illustrator, putting his name on the cover and assuring that he had a cut of the royalties. The book was a runaway best seller with more than 150,000 copies sold in its first year.
Shepard continued to illustrate the Pooh books for much of the rest of his life, creating new drawings and scenes for the many editions that were to come. His Pooh work brought him additional commissions and additional income to add to his other work and artistic endeavors. Eventually, Shepard would write and illustrate his own children’s stories. Not long after the Pooh book was published, Shepard’s wife died suddenly, leaving a void in his life that he filled with work.
One of the commissions that came his way was from Kenneth Grahame, the author of The Wind in the Willows, a book that had been published first in 1908 and had grown in popularity among adults and children. The first edition had no illustrations at all, but illustrations began to appear with subsequent printings. Grahame had never been completely satisfied with them, however.
While Shepard was not the first illustrator of Toad, Mole, and Ratty—three of the more famous characters of The Wind in the Willows—his are the drawings most famously associated with the book. When Grahame approached him about doing the illustrations for an edition of the book in 1931, Shepard later said, “I was more excited when they offered me that than Pooh.” Shepard met with Grahame, and together they took a tour of the forest that had inspired the stories.
Shepard did some preliminary drawings that he showed to Grahame, and the author praised him for bringing his characters to life. Unfortunately, Grahame died shortly thereafter and never saw Shepard’s drawings in published form. Shepard believed that the Willows drawings were some of the best he had ever produced.
That is saying something because of Shepard’s long life and prolific output. He was born in London in 1879, went to art school, and by his 30s was a successful painter who had exhibited his works in numerous locations. When World War I began, Shepard was 34 years old, but he enlisted anyway and saw a great deal of combat action in both France and Italy. He received a number of military awards for heroism at the front and was eventually promoted to acting major.
While in the army, Shepard continued his artwork, submitting drawings to Punch magazine, a place he had always hoped to work. He achieved that goal in 1921 when Punch hired him as a staff cartoonist. By 1945 he was the magazine’s chief cartoonist, but he was also receiving numerous outside commissions and accumulated a prodigious output of drawings and paintings during these years.
The Pooh illustrations grew so famous that they overshadowed his other work, and eventually Shepard referred to Pooh as “that silly old bear.”
Shepard left Punch in the mid-1950s but continued to work, illustrating books and writing two autobiographies: Drawn from Memory (1957) and Drawn from Life (1961).
His last work was a set of 240 color illustrations for a new edition of the Pooh book. These were old illustrations that he painted over with watercolor, and they were done in 1973 when Shepard was 93 years old. He died three years later in 1976.
The useless emotions—and how to get rid of them
“My mother’s advice was, don’t lose time on useless emotions like anger, resentment, remorse, envy. Those, she said, will just sap time; they don’t get you where you want to be. One way I coped with times I was angry: I would sit down and practice the piano. I wasn’t very good at it, but it did distract me from whatever useless emotion I was feeling at the moment. Later, I did the same with the cello. I would be absorbed in the music, and the useless emotion faded away.”— RBG’s Life, In Her Own Words
I have come to believe that nothing uses up more energy with less good effect than anger. Occasionally, it is justified and useful, but not nearly as often as we conjure it up.
The other emotions listed above by Ruth Bader Ginsburg fall into the same category as anger, and her antidote for them sounds pretty good.
Thanks to Shane Parrish and his Farnham Street blog newsletter.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
This week’s bandsaw box: the AlphaCedar box
The heading on this item is written as a hope, not a promise. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had learned how to make what woodworkers call a “bandsaw box,” and I showed a few of my initial efforts here on this JPROF page. I have found these boxes full of creative promise, and I have continued to practice turning them out.
Thus, I am initiating what I will call for this newsletter “This week’s bandsaw box,” paralleling “This week’s watercolor.” We’ll see how long I can keep this up.
This week’s bandsaw box is the AlphaCedar. The box is all cedar, and I have left some of the inside drawers unfinished so that the cedar aroma will still be present. The only non-cedar parts of the box are the drawer pulls, which are quarter-inch plywood and provide a contrasting color for the box. The pulls were cut out with a scrollsaw rather than a bandsaw. The box is 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches at the base and 6 inches tall. The inside of the lower draw is 1.5 inches deep by 1 inch wide by 2.25 inches long. It would make a great desk accessory for holding those small items that are constantly cluttering the surface.
From the archives: Richard Tregaskis, the tall guy at Guadalcanal
Note: I received an email this week from a hanai relative of Richard Tregaskis, telling me of plans to re-publish some of his work and asking for permission to use this article and caricature. Find out more about those plans at this link. These items first appeared in the newsletter in August 2020.
The Marines that he wrote about on Guadalcanal would tell Richard Tregaskis that if the Japanese captured him, they would probably use him as an “observation post.”
They weren’t far from wrong. Tregaskis, a reporter during World War II for the International News Service, was six-feet, seven-inches tall—tall enough to be an observation post or just about anything else that needed height. What he was, however, was an outstanding war reporter and writer.
Tregaskis was assigned by the INS to cover the U.S. campaign in the Solomon Islands in August 1942, and he landed with the first wave of Marines on what many would eventually describe as the closest thing to hell on earth as you could get. It was a campaign that would reverse the momentum the Japanese were riding with the bombing of Pearl Harbor ten months earlier. Tregaskis was one of two reporters to witness what happened there.
He wrote what he saw, heard, and felt. He was on the front lines, close to the fighting, and that was where he stayed for a month and a half. When he left in late September, he put his writings together in a book titled Guadalcanal Diary, in which the introduction said, “ . . . he ate, slept, and sweated with our front-line units. His story is the straight day-by-day account of what he himself saw or learned from eyewitnesses during those seven weeks.”
The manuscript was finished just a few weeks after he exited the islands, and it was quickly accepted by Random House and picked as a Book of the Month selection. The reading public loved it, and Guadalcanal Diary is still considered one of the classics of World War II reporting and is required reading for many military personnel today. Later in 1943, the book was made into a movie—a film that has continued in popularity to this day.
Tregaskis was born in New Jersey and was a championship swimmer at Harvard. After college, he worked for the Boston American, and when America entered the war, he volunteered to be a correspondent for the INS. After his time in the Pacific, he went to Italy to cover the Allied invasion there, and he was severely wounded—so badly that he was partially paralyzed and lost his power of speech. He regained it by picking up a book of poetry and painstakingly reading it aloud every day until his speech returned.
His book about the campaigns in Sicily and Italy was Invasion Diary, and he continued covering the war until its end.
He continued to cover various conflicts for the next two decades, and in 1963 he published a book about Vietnam, Vietnam Diary, that predated America’s heavy involvement in Southeast Asia.
In 1973, Tregaskis was living in Hawaii when he drowned in his swimming pool after suffering a heart attack. The helmet, gouged by shrapnel, that he wore in Italy when he was wounded is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Two red bows
Best quote of the week:
“Compete with yourself and root for everybody else.” Candice Millard, author (see this JPROF link about Candice Millard)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Peggy Eaton, more Bad Blood, obesity, and a gem from the archive: newsletter, September 17, 2021
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