The Last Shakers, How Disneyland Was Built, and Flat-Earthers
Good morning. First up: Katherine Lucky visits the last Shakers in Sabbathday Lake, Maine: “In 1880, there were almost two thousand Shakers living in twenty-one villages. By 1900, there were less than one thousand. By 1936, there were ninety-two. And by 1986, there were only eight, all living at Sabbathday Lake: five women and three men, including one named Wayne Smith, who had joined after graduating from high school. Twenty years later, that number was down to four: Frances, Arnold, June, and Wayne, the youngest. Around that time the Boston Globe ran a story on the village, headlined ‘The Last Ones Standing.’ The reporter’s breathless description of Wayne read: ‘6-foot 3-inches, tanned and muscular from hours on a John Deere tractor, [with] the look of a strapping farm boy.’ Seven months after the article appeared, Wayne left the village. He’d been sneaking calls to the Globe reporter; soon he proposed to her. They were married as Methodists . . . Arnold believed that the Shakers were creating a divine community on earth: ‘We’re not prefiguring heaven—we’re living it. This is it, right now.’ Yet it seemed that his life had not been heavenly. He struck me as befuddled by his situation. ‘Certainly, I have had a wonderful privilege and it has been a dreary, horrible existence all at the same time.’ Especially, I imagined, as caregiver to an older woman. Especially, I guessed, when he considered the end: confessing to himself, weathering winters alone in the cavernous house.”
How Disneyland was built: “Ryman started to draw and Disney started to talk. ‘This is a magic place. The important thing is the castle [the studio was in the early stages of filming Sleeping Beauty]. Make it tall enough to be seen from all around the Park. It’s got to keep people oriented. And I want a hub at the end of Main Street, where all the other lands will radiate from, like the spokes in a wheel. I’ve been studying the way people go to museums and other entertainment places. Everybody’s got tired feet. I don’t want that to happen in this place. I want a place for people to sit down and where old folks can say, “You kids run on. I’ll meet you there in a half hour.” Disneyland is going to be a place where you can’t get lost or tired unless you want to.’ . . . Fueled by milkshakes and tuna-fish sandwiches, the two worked through the weekend in the blue haze of Disney’s Chesterfields. Ryman could do bold cityscapes with an almost expressionist palette, but this drawing was crisp and literal, delicate and full of appealing specifics. Forty hours after Disney’s phone call, Ryman set down his carbon pencil. The two men looked at the finished work.”
In praise of Purcell: “Few composers—in his time and in the centuries since—have been as deft as Purcell at marrying text and sound. His opera Dido and Aeneas is a seminal work, the most important of his compositions for the stage, and his songs, of which he wrote more than 100, are exemplary (such 20th-century English composers as Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett would pay brilliant homage to them in their own ways).”
William Dean Howells’s Ohio: “However learned he became, Howells’s Ohio childhood made him conscious of the cultural chasms that separated his home from New York’s high society, the neighbors of his youth from Cambridge’s elite academicians. It was perhaps fate, then, that Howells would dedicate his life to incorporating his native Ohio and the Midwest into American literature.”
Franklin Einspruch reviews an exhibit of N. C. Wyeth’s work that goes off the rails: “Wall labels throughout the exhibition are divided in two. On the left reads the usual wall-label stuff. The right sides have been given over to commentary from people who seem never to have thought about Wyeth until prompted. On the Mohicans endpaper, one of them opines, ‘Here is a white man standing next to two subservient Native Americans . . . the man standing in the boat with the gun, surveying the land that he feels is his, that he feels he has taken and it belongs to him now. It may be called The Last of the Mohicans but it’s not about them at all. It’s about taming and conquering.’ Actually, in James Fenimore Cooper’s story, the man with the gun put himself in mortal danger to protect his two Native friends, but why let total ignorance of the subject interfere with projections of racism? Speaking of projections, another commenter says that a sign depicted in the lower right corner of the Herring Gut seascape ‘tell[s] people where they are, but the sign doesn’t say Pesamkuk. There is no trace of the indigenous people here. It was reimagnined in white supremacy.’ That ‘sign’ is the window on the side of a house and it ‘says’ some daubs of mauve and violet. Most dismaying are the remarks on Dark Harbor Fishermen. ‘When you see an illustration, you place yourself in it. Are you going to be a seagull? Or the man shoveling the fish? . . . Are you going to identify yourself as a strong white man? Identifying with a figure like that is self-destructive because the ideas are detrimental to you if you’re a black person or a woman. Yet those are the figures you’re given to identify with.’ Welcome to contemporary progressivism, where you will injure yourself if you’re black and identify with a white person in a picture, but if you want to pretend that you’re an opportunistic waterfowl, go right ahead.”
Kevin Williamson visits a flat-Earth conference in Texas: “As flat-Earth writer Noel Hadley tells me, ‘Satan runs everything: music, Hollywood, media, Republicans, Democrats, Washington, Israel, Zionism. . . .’ They know Satan when they see him. But they don’t know what the Earth looks like — only that it is not round. And that if people only understood that, then they would . . . change their diets, and vaccine companies would go out of business, as one speaker insisted. ‘We don’t believe in a flying pancake in space,’ says exasperated conference organizer Robbie Davidson, a Canadian conspiracy hobbyist, ‘and we don’t believe you can fall off the edge of it.’ But what does the Earth actually look like? That, apparently, needs “more investigation,” in the inevitable dodge uttered from the stage.”
Essay of the Day:
In National Review, Madeleine Kearns writes about how transgender activism ruins the lives of children:
“The Younger case has gained much media attention, in the U.S. and beyond. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the BBC all seem to cast the father as the villain, in particular for his refusal to agree that his child is transgender. Rolling Stone opines that the Younger story has become a ‘terrifying right-wing talking point.’ Vox is worried about Republican state legislators’ trying to introduce bills prohibiting chemical and surgical interference with the sexual development of children who say they’re transgender, and ‘what [this] could mean for families nationwide’ when ‘legislators want to have a say in whether Luna Younger should be allowed to socially transition.’ For the Left, the Younger story is a tale of backwards attitudes victimizing a child.
“In truth, it’s progressive attitudes that are victimizing the child, and James Younger is not an outlier. There are many more just like him, and some in even more dire straits. For years, the medical and legal establishments have been ignoring evidence and bending their standards to please transgender activists, some of whom are clinicians. There are three clinical approaches to helping children who exhibit symptoms of gender confusion. One involves a range of talk therapies and psychotherapies to address suspected underlying causes. A second, called ‘watchful waiting,’ allows the child’s development to unfold as it will, which may mean that he chooses to transition later or not at all.
“Then there is a third option — informed by an ideology according to which it is possible for a child to be ‘born in the wrong body.’ In this option, clinical activists recommend a drastic response when a child expresses confusion about gender. First, parents should tell the child, however young, that he truly is the sex he identifies with. Second, parents should consider delaying his puberty through off-label uses of drugs that can have serious (and largely unstudied) side effects. Third, parents should consider giving their child the puberty experience of the opposite sex, through cross-sex hormonal injections and gels (which result in sterility). Finally, parents should consider greenlighting the surgical removal of their child’s reproductive organs.
“Since there are no objective tests to confirm a transgender diagnosis, all of this is arbitrary and dependent on a child’s changeable feelings. To make aggressive treatment more acceptable, its advocates have come up with a media-friendly euphemism, ‘gender affirmation.’ If it’s affirming, activists say, it’s also kindness, love, acceptance, and support. The opposite, trying to help a child feel more comfortable with his body, is a rejection: abuse, hatred, ‘transphobia,’ or ‘conversion therapy’ likely to lead to child suicide. This is a lie — a lie designed to obscure a critical truth: that neither a child, nor his parents on his behalf, can truly consent to experimental, life-altering, and irreversible treatments for which there is no evidentiary support.”
Poem: Henry Hart, “My Brother’s Antique Bottles”
Receive Prufrock in your inbox every weekday morning. Subscribe here.