Readers Respond to the January Issue
Thanks for telling “The Truth About Lions” and identifying human population growth as the main cause of their decline. Earth’s population is headed for over nine billion this century, expansion that destroys lion habitats and places both animals and our planet in peril.
Hail To The King
Having traveled in the Serengeti and then into the Ngorongoro Crater, I’ve seen many lions. Even when they are resting, there is no denying these magnificent creatures are truly the king of beasts. Even though we were in safari jeeps, their presence overwhelmed us as they strolled within arm’s length. In the Ngorongoro Crater, one big male, in his haste to avoid three menacing males, walked so close to our vehicle we could hear him breathe. Fortunately, he escaped into the tall grasses on the crater floor, but not before he gave us all a thrill of a lifetime.
We are disappointed in the author’s comment citing hunting as a cause of Tanzania’s “crashing lion population.” Kenya outlawed big game hunting in the late ’70s. Since then its game populations have declined. Why? On the other hand, Tanzania has had both a thriving hunting industry and thriving game populations. The cow, pig and chicken are the most persecuted animals on earth, but money they generate ensures their prolific populations.
Picturing Phineas Gage
In response to our story about the recently discovered photograph of Phineas Gage [“Finding Phineas”], a famous figure in neuroscience circles because of the dramatic brain injury he sustained in 1848, we received a number of letters asking if we flopped or reversed the photograph. We did, because it originated as a daguerreotype, which is almost always a mirror image of the actual subject, and we chose to show Gage as he was, not as he appeared in the original picture. (We explained our decision in the photo credit line.) We also received a letter from Phyllis Gage Hartley, a relative of Phineas Gage, who sent us a photograph of Phineas that was evidently not taken at the same time and place as the one we published. “I grew up with the Phineas story,” writes Hartley, 84, of Maplewood, New Jersey. She says she wants to “set the record straight” about which eye was damaged. Because her photograph is itself of historic interest, we sent a copy to Malcolm Macmillan, of the University of Melbourne, author of An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage, and his collaborator, Matthew L. Lena, of Boston. Here is their reply.
We are pleased to comment on Mrs. Phyllis Gage Hartley’s very important image of Phineas Gage. It appears to be identical to one recently sent to us by Tara Gage Miller of Texas. Significantly, the Hartley-Miller photograph, coming independently from two branches of the Gage family, further confirms that the young man in the photograph owned by Beverly and Jack Wilgus and published in Smithsonian was in fact Phineas Gage. After examining the Hartley-Miller image themselves, the Wilguses concluded that it’s a reproduction of a daguerreotype (or similarly produced image), and we agree. Thus the Hartley-Miller photograph is a mirror image, which is why Gage’s right eye appears injured in that photograph, but his left eye is injured in the one previously published in the magazine. (Phineas’ life mask and skull, which are still preserved, as well as contemporaneous medical examinations, concur that all the damage, including that to his eye, was on the left side.) Mrs. Hartley’s photograph contains important clues for future research. We encourage readers to learn more and help answer our research questions at: http://www.deakin.edu.au/hmnbs/psychology/gagepage
Having written recently about sausages, I looked forward to reading Andrew Blechman’s “Wurst Case Scenario,” but I was disappointed to see his willful maligning of German cuisine. I lived in Germany for 15 years and can assure you that German cooking is certainly no longer the stereotypical meat-and-potatoes fare that he describes. Several of Blechman’s other assertions are also incorrect. Mediterranean foods were already popular in Germany by the mid-1970s, not the late 1980s. French cuisine has long influenced German chefs in the Baden region adjacent to France. German meals are usually not “served all at once,” but often in three courses, beginning with soup and ending with dessert, nor is the food quickly gobbled down (bad manners). Some meats are indeed cooked medium-rare, including pork and duck. If German cuisine were as bad as Blechman describes it, why does Germany have 225 Michelin-starred restaurants, including more three-star restaurants than any country in Europe except France?
I loved “Wurst Case Scenario.” It saddens my heart to know that the arts of butchery and charcuterie are dwindling away. As a chef, I truly understand how old this craft is. The world’s palate is evolving back to natural foods. I, for one, totally support this movement. Hopefully, though, we won’t forget that a little Fleisch can be naturally good for us too. How you ever found a German butcher turned vegetarian with a guilty conscience is beyond me. It was too funny!
Mr. Ferling did not refute the idea that Saratoga was the war’s turning point [“Myths of the American Revolution”]. He redefined the argument by stating there was “no single decisive event.” Of the other “key moments” he listed, none but the failure of the British Southern strategy made the war’s outcome inevitable. While Victory at Yorktown effectively ended the war, it was predicated upon the 1778 Franco-American alliance (a direct result of the American victory at Saratoga) and, due to the need to defend Britain’s growing worldwide empire, the British policy of waging limited warfare. Once France entered the war (1778), followed by Spain (1779) and the Netherlands (1780), Britain could no longer afford to concentrate its military might in America.
Saratoga National Historical Park
Stillwater, New York
The 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain [“Myths of the American Revolution”] did not take place in North Carolina, as the article stated. It was fought in the South Carolina part of the Kings Mountain range.