Podcast Episode 320: John Hornby and the Barren Lands

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hornby_1924.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as “the hermit of the north,” famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll spend a winter with Hornby, who’s been called “one of the most colorful adventurers in modern history.”

We’ll also consider an anthropologist’s reputation and puzzle over an unreachable safe.

Intro:

In 1902, Ambrose Bierce proposed that we learn to sever our social ties.

Can it make sense to pray for a change in the past?

Sources for our feature on John Hornby:

Malcolm Waldron, Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands, 1931.

Pierre Berton, Prisoners of the North, 2011.

David F. Pelly, Thelon: A River Sanctuary, 1996.

Morten Asfeldt and Bob Henderson, eds., Pike’s Portage: Stories of a Distinguished Place, 2010.

Misao Dean, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: The Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalism, 2013.

Michael D. Pitt, Beyond the End of the Road: A Winter of Contentment North of the Arctic Circle, 2009.

Mckay Jenkins, Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands, 2007.

Clive Powell-Williams, Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster, 2003.

Brook Sutton, “Long Before McCandless, John Hornby Tested Himself in Northern Canada — and Failed,” Adventure Journal, Oct. 27, 2016.

C.B. Sikstrom, “Hjalmar Nelson Hamar (1894–1967),” Arctic 67:3 (2014), 407-409.

Alex M. Hall, “Pike’s Portage: Stories of a Distinguised Place, Edited by Morten Asfeldt and Bob Henderson,” Arctic 63:3 (2010), 364-365.

David F. Pelly, “Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands,” Arctic 53:1 (March 2000), 81-82.

Hugh Stewart, “Arctic Profiles: John Hornby,” Arctic 37:2 (June 1984), 184-185.

M.T. Kelly, “Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands,” Books in Canada 27:7 (October 1998), 29.

Thomas H. Hill, “John Hornby: Legend or Fool,” Torch Magazine 89:2 (Winter 2016), 6-9.

Martin Zeilig, “Touring Canada’s Untouched North a Treat,” [Regina, Sask.] Leader Post, Oct. 27, 2006, F2.

“Privation and Death in ‘the Barrens,'” Toronto Star, Aug. 9, 1987, A8.

Anne Ross, “John Hornby,” Globe and Mail, March 21, 1978, P.6.

George J. Lustre, “Hornby’s Adventures,” Globe and Mail, March 10, 1978, P.7.

Allan Irving, “John Hornby,” Globe and Mail, March 9, 1978, P.6.

“Last Hours of John Hornby Are Pictured by Christian,” [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Dec. 31, 1929, 2.

“Bodies of Three Explorers Found,” [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Sept. 6, 1928, 29.

“Identity of Bodies Not Entirely Clear,” New Britain [Conn.] Herald, Aug. 15, 1928, 10.

“Musk-Ox Sanctuary,” Montreal Gazette, Aug. 26, 1927.

James Charles Critchell Bullock Archive, Sherborne School, June 1, 2015.

John Ferns, “Hornby, John,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography (accessed Nov. 8, 2020).

Listener mail:

“Building Name Review: Kroeber Hall,” Berkeley: Office of the Chancellor (accessed Nov. 7, 2020).

“Proposal to Un-Name Kroeber Hall,” UC Berkeley Building Name Review Committee, July 1, 2020.

Karl Kroeber and Clifton B. Kroeber, Ishi in Three Centuries, 2003.

Vicky Baker, “Last Survivor: The Story of the ‘World’s Loneliest Man,'” BBC News, July 20, 2018.

Dom Phillips, “Footage of Sole Survivor of Amazon Tribe Emerges,” Guardian, July 19, 2018.

Monte Reel, “The Most Isolated Man on the Planet,” Slate, Aug. 20, 2010.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Greg. Here are two corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 319: Friedrich Kellner’s Opposition

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_and_Pauline_Kellner_in_1914.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll tell the story of Friedrich’s diary and his outspoken warnings to future generations.

We’ll also ponder the problem with tardigrades and puzzle over a seemingly foolish choice.

See full show notes …

A Captivating Entertainment

https://books.google.com/books?id=TlcH33FzY3cC

Visitors to La Granja, Philip V’s retreat overlooking Madrid, may have found this unusual labyrinth a bit too involving. It’s a “vortex maze”: It “leads you directly to the centre, but its spiralling options for exit are your undoing,” explain Angus Hyland and Kendra Wilson in The Maze: A Labyrinthine Compendium (2018). “On paper, it is a beautiful design, and in reality it is almost twice as large as the ‘record-breaking’ maze at Longleat, made 250 years later.”

Philip’s French landscapers drew it from La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, the best-selling gardening manual published by Antoine Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville in 1709.

Remembrance

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shrine_of_Remembrance,_Melbourne_2017-10-28_01.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, built to honor the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, contains a marble stone engraved with the words Greater love hath no man (from John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”).

The shrine is constructed so that once a year, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, a ray of sunlight will shine through an aperture in the roof to illuminate the word love.

Arizona’s Anthem Veterans Memorial has a related design.

11/14/2020 UPDATE: An interesting addendum: The introduction of daylight saving in 1971 led designers to introduce a system of mirrors to ensure the right timing. Thanks to everyone who wrote in about this.

The Church Cipher

In 1775, an enciphered message was intercepted en route from colonial physician Benjamin Church to a British officer in Boston. Part of the message appears below. What does it say?

https://www.nps.gov/articles/decoding-benjamin-church.htm

Click for Answer

“The New Europe”

https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:19343441

P.A. Maas, son of a Viennese publisher, offered this proposal after World War I. “Does anyone really seriously believe that the consequences of the peace negotiations so far have secured eternal peace?” he wrote. “Does anyone really seriously believe that the revenge of the individual peoples has been satisfied by the consequences of the present peace negotiations?”

Instead he proposed to divide the continent into 24 wedge-shaped “Kantons,” each named for a prominent city. These would meet at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, center of the new union’s capital, which Maas envisioned as “a large, wide garden city, hygienically designed and expanded.” The Kantons would cut across cultural and ethnic lines and across the old national borders, and each one would include at least two of Europe’s “Nations” — Romans, Germans, Slavs, and Magyars — so that “racial hatred does not prevail as before, but the love of the people prevails.” The three-year presidency would rotate among the Nations, all colonies would be jointly owned, everyone would speak Esperanto, and everyone over 20 (except married women) could vote.

“To many a reader this work may appear as the result of over-excited imagination; someday, though late, the knowledge of truth will gain the upper hand, and perhaps many things which have been stimulated by me here will be realized.”

(From the Cornell University Library.)

Company

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_grotesque_old_men_with_awful_teeth_grimacing_and_point_Wellcome_V0012066.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Liverpool Ugly Faces Club, 1745:

  • Mathew Strong, merchant: “A tawny complexion, sharp nose, flook mouth, irregular bad set of teeth like those of an old worn out comb, thoroughly begrimed. A ghastly queer grin and countenance greatly set off by a long carroty beard.”
  • John Woods, architect: “A stone coloured complexion, a dimple in his attick story, the pilasters of his face fluted, tortoise eyed, a prominent nose, wild grin, and face altogether resembling a badger, and finer, though smaller than those of Sr Chryst WREN or Inego JONES.”
  • John Williamson Jr., merchant: “Ruff face, bleared eyes, flowing like two fountains, monstrous long nose, hooked like the beak of an eagle, pretty large mouth, upon the whole a charming member.”
  • William Long: “Rugged face, very prominent large nose, extraordinary wide mouth, no upper teeth, a large under lip, a prodigious long chin, meeting his nose like a pair of nutcrackers, an extraordinary member.”
  • Francis Gildart, Esq.: “Large pancake face, little, hollow grey eyes, short turnup, nose, large thick under lip, which almost meets his nose, odd droll, sancho, pancho, phiz, which gives life humour to everything he says. Therefore sets off a joke to ye utmost advantage.”
  • Robert Fillingham, merchant: “Little eyes, wide mouth, thin jaws, narrow face. His countenance hard, stern and crabbed. In every respect extremely well qualified.”
  • John Parr Sr., draper: “Broad, Punch like face, flat nose, wide nostrils, large mouth, thick lips, stern looks, sallow complexion, hideous grin.”
  • William Willocks, merchant: “Longish visage, very uncommon squinting eyes.”
  • Lewis Augs Younge, M.D.: “A large carbuncle potato nose, fine and bushy eyebrows, an agreeable facetious grin, wide mouth. When he laughs comes the shape of the moon at a quarter old, and on the whole, a face fitting a member of the Society.”

Worst, apparently, was merchant Joseph Farmer: “Little eyes, one bigger than ye other, long nose, thin lanthorn jaws, large upper lip, mouth from ear to ear resembling the mouth of a shark. A rotten set of irregular teeth, which are set off to great advantage by frequent laughing. His visage long and narrow. His looks upon the whole, extraordinary haggard, odd, comic, and out of ye way. In short, possessed of every extraordinary qualification to render him ye Phoenix of ye Society, as the like will not appear again this 1000 years.”

The club’s motto was Tetrum ante omnia vultum, “Before all things, an ugly face.”

(From the Liverpool Mercury, Sept. 29, 1887.)

Podcast Episode 318: Peace Pilgrim

peace pilgrim

In 1953 Mildred Norman renounced “an empty life of money and things” and dedicated herself to promoting peace. She spent the next three decades walking through the United States to spread a message of simplicity and harmony. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe her unusual life as a peace pilgrim.

We’ll also admire Wellington’s Mittens and puzzle over a barren Christmas.

Intro:

In 1956, Navy pilot Tom Attridge overtook his own rounds in a supersonic jet.

Flemish artist Cornelius Gijsbrechts painted a rendering of the back of a painting.

See full show notes …

Lesson

https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/waketheform/exhibition/outsider/index.html#modalOpen

This was in the Public Domain Review yesterday — in 1917 the National Woman Suffrage Association published a little book purporting to give every reason women shouldn’t be given the franchise. Inside, every page page was blank.

The 19th amendment passed three years later. “Men and women are like right and left hands,” wrote Jeannette Rankin. “It doesn’t make sense not to use both.”

(From the Cornell University Library.)

Brave New World

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Outside_StGeorges_Hospital.jpg

Only a few years back those who carried Umbrellas were held to be legitimate butts. They were old fogies, careful of their health, and so on; but now-a-days we are wiser. Everybody has his Umbrella. It is both cheaper and better made than of old; who, then, so poor he cannot afford one? To see a man going out in the rain umbrella-less excites as much mirth as ever did the sight of those who first — wiser than their generation — availed themselves of this now universal shelter.

— William Sangster, Umbrellas and Their History, 1855

In 1899 Notes & Queries reprinted an account, now thought to be apocryphal, of “the first silk hat in London”:

It was in evidence that Mr. Hetherington, who is well connected, appeared upon the public highway wearing upon his head what he called a silk hat (which was offered in evidence), a tall structure, having a shiny lustre, and calculated to frighten timid people. As a matter of fact, the officers of the Crown stated that several women fainted at the unusual sight, while children screamed, dogs yelped, and a young son of Cordwainer Thomas, who was returning from a chandler’s shop, was thrown down by the crowd which had collected and had his right arm broken.

Supposedly Hetherington argued that he’d broken no law, and the Times backed him up: “In these days of enlightenment it must be considered an advance in dress reform, and one which is bound, sooner or later, to stamp its character upon the entire community.”