Great Reads for Monday

The Atlantic reports on a new trend sweeping fitness centres around upscale neighborhoods. In The Stationary Bike of the Soul, Emma Green writes about her experiences in SoulCycle, a company that offers specialized exercise classes with a hint of new age/one-percenter spirituality. I think it’s kinda lame – just ride a bike for Pete’s sake.

And here’s a story about a guy who lived in the Maine woods as a hermit for 27 years.

His name, he revealed, was Christopher Thomas Knight. Born on December 7, 1965. He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.

“For how long?” wondered Perkins-Vance.

Knight thought for a bit, then asked when the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster occurred. He had long ago lost the habit of marking time in months or years; this was just a news event he happened to remember. The nuclear meltdown took place in 1986, the same year, Knight said, he went to live in the woods. He was 20 years old at the time, not long out of high school. He was now 47, a middle-aged man.

Knight stated that over all those years he slept only in a tent. He never lit a fire, for fear that smoke would give his camp away. He moved strictly at night. He said he didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead. He’d not made one phone call or driven in a car or spent any money. He had never in his life sent an e-mail or even seen the Internet.

Hmmm, one phone call, no email, no Internet. Tough decision.

News from 1914 – the last passenger pigeon dies

The late summer of 1914 was not the ideal moment in history to get the world worked up over the death of a pigeon in Cincinnati Zoo. However, the news about Martha did get space in some of the American newspapers.

One of them, The Evening World in New York, even made a comparison with the conflagration that had just begun across the Atlantic, saying Martha’s death should be noted even when “the last European soldier known to war lords is in danger of dying in his turn”.

Indeed, looking back a century later, one might argue – taking a very, very long view – that Martha’s death was more consequential than the first world war. For that did not turn out to be the war to end all wars. But Martha was undoubtedly the passenger pigeon to end all passenger pigeons.

The body of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died on September 1 1914, on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC

The body of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died on September 1 1914, on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC

Her cagemate George had died five years earlier; the marriage was chickless; all the other captive passenger pigeons had died; none had been seen in the wild for a long time. Ectopistes migratorius was now extinct.

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