Discussion April 2015

From our readers

From the Editors Readers hailed the cover package commemorating the 150 year anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. “Over-the-top wonderful,” James Edlund of Minnesota wrote. Jerry Adler’s story “Wild at Heart,” about a former SeaWorld trainer who worked with orcas, is sparking heated debate. Paul Massignani argues that the theme park should be closed permanently, but Zoe Remund doesn’t go that far. “SeaWorld doesn’t need to shut down, just change,” she says on Facebook. “It’s unethical to keep such intelligent creatures in a tank.” But the largest reader response was generated by David Roberts’ skeptical “Grand Canyon on the Edge,” which reported on a proposed commercial development, including a gondola, on tribal land adjacent to the national park.

Grand Canyon Elites
Thank you for your enlightening article about possible developments at the Grand Canyon. Though the author is clearly against development, the article highlights the very real conflict between environmentalists and those advocating economic progress for the Navajo and increased access to the canyon. The proposed Escalade project is located outside the far northeastern boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park and 23 miles from the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village. Its 420 acres is insignificant compared with the 1,902 square miles of the national park. The interior of the Grand Canyon is a magical place that should be accessible to all, not just the elite who have the mobility, stamina, time and money to travel to the bottom of the canyon by walking or riding a raft or a mule. The proposed gondola would have a minor impact on the beauty of the canyon. Consider, do the hundreds of railroads, tramways, and ski lifts in the Swiss Alps spoil their beauty?
Robert Arias
Crownsville, Maryland

Absorbing the spectacular beauty of Bill Hatcher’s photographs of the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, and the floor of the Grand Canyon, I tried imagining a flyover of the area after the proposed Escalade commercial development. While I thought David Roberts was quite fair in giving both sides of the issue, I came away thinking that, surely, there must be other creative ways to introduce industry with jobs potential without desecrating such an iconically important natural area. If I should have the opportunity to view in person the wonders of the Grand Canyon, I am certain I would want to see them in their natural state, without all the human embroidery of such vast and forever-changing commercial development. 
Kay J. Mann
Pittsboro, North Carolina 

In his otherwise excellent article about the changes wrought by the advent of the copier and 3-D printers [“Duplication Nation”], Clive Thompson makes a common mistake, confusing mimeograph machines with ditto machines. The mimeograph worked by forcing ink through a wax-impregnated paper stencil, while ditto was a transfer process, using alcohol to release small amounts of ink (usually purple) from a paper master. These were good for 25 to 75 copies (if you were lucky) and were smelly. A good mimeographer could obtain hundreds of copies from each stencil.
John Trimble
Monrovia, California

Weighty Question
James L. Swanson [“The Blood Relics”] wrote, “Booth fired a one-ounce lead ball.” A .44-caliber pistol typically uses a ball weighing 140 grains, or 0.32 ounces. Was that an error or is something else going on?
George Idzorek
Los Alamos, New Mexico

Editor’s note: The plaque beneath Booth’s Deringer at the Ford’s Theatre Museum lists the weight of the bullet as “nearly an ounce.” The National Museum of Health and Medicine, where the bullet is displayed today, says it has no record of its weight and it cannot be weighed now because it has been permanently mounted. Bullets in the 1860s were not uniform. A firearms expert at the National Museum of American History says 0.32 ounces is well within the realm of reason.