Roundtable

The Rest Is History

A hotel on the moon, skydiving beavers, and the smells of 1906.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, March 03, 2017

IMAGE:

 The Sunken Road in the Cliff at Varangeville, by Claude Monet, 1882.

• Monet, artist of choice for the Gilded Age’s wealthiest collectors: “The fact is that, after the age of 50 (he lived to be 86), Monet was unrelentingly flush with cash: a happy outcome for such a bon vivant. His wealth kept him in a fleet of automobiles, tweed suits from a fine English tailor in Paris, and a sizeable staff of gardeners to tend his famous gardens. In this respect, he has more in common with Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons, with their high-octane dealers, deep-pocketed collectors, and multimillion-dollar fortunes, than he does with artistic outliers such as the penniless Vincent van Gogh. His surname is an apt one, as headline writers and other punsters appreciate, enjoying its near-homonymity with ‘money’. He was, in fact, the Jazz Age’s answer to Koons, because in 1922, four years before his death, the sale of one of his canvases to a Japanese tycoon made him the world’s most expensive living artist.” (Aeon)

• The story of Biddy Mason, who was born enslaved and died one of the wealthiest women in Los Angeles. (Curbed)

• In the postwar 1940s, anything seemed possible, up to and including rehoming beavers into new forests via parachute: “Fish and Game employee Elmo Heter got an idea. Perhaps it came to him after noticing the surplus of rayon parachutes housed at the Forest Service, leftover from the war. Why not hire a Travel Air plane, attach a few dozen beavers to the chutes, and drop new colonies of the critters at their new homes? Rather than hiring a mule team to spend days moving one flat-tailed-beaver pair (a considerable expense), dropping a dozen pairs in the woods over the course of one afternoon would cost taxpayers only seven bucks a beaver—less if rangers could retrieve the chutes.” (Paris Review Daily)

• Considering the dearth of female travel writers in the twenty-first century. (The Guardian)

• In 1967 a Hilton hotel on the moon seemed inevitable: “The entrance to the Lunar Hilton would be on the surface, but the majority of the three-level hotel would be situated 20-30 feet below for better temperature control. All the machinery necessary to keep the hotel running would be housed in the bottom level. The second level would consist of two long hallways crossing each other, providing enough space for 100 rooms. The top level would be reserved for public space and a dining room. Each section of the hotel would be separated by air locks and lined with plastic that can expand under pressure, so that in the event of a leak, and as Hilton outlined during his presentation, the ‘pressurized cells can be repaired as an automobile tire is repaired here on Earth,’ making ‘leaks that develop in the system…a nuisance, rather than a disaster.’” (The Outline)

• At New York’s Morgan Library & Museum, a team of researchers is using the collection’s books to reconstruct the scent of 1906. (Hyperallergic)