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The Story Behind The Newly Discovered Dr. Seuss Book

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Theodor Seuss Geisel—who was already beloved for his many Dr. Seuss books—penned a draft for What Pet Should I Get? Although the book made it through many rounds of Seuss' laborious self-editing to the final stage of preparation—which features words typed on small squares of paper and taped in place on the artwork—it was never published. Now, almost 25 years after Seuss died in 1991, you'll be able to find What Pet Should I Get? on bookstore shelves starting July 28.

After Seuss died, his widow, Audrey Geisel, and an assistant cleaned out his old office. Most of the valuable illustrations and early drafts were donated to the University of California, San Diego; but some loose pages and project folders ended up in a box that went unnoticed for many years. In 2013, Audrey finally decided to sort through the contents of that box and get the last of Seuss' original works appraised. It was then that she found What Pet Should I Get? and two other unpublished stories.

To turn the file labeled "The Pet Shop" into the first 21st century addition to the Seussian catalog, the family called up his former editor at Random House, Cathy Goldsmith—"our lasting link to Dr. Seuss," as Susan Brandt, president of licensing and marketing for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, described her. Goldsmith was nervous to impose her vision on this unfinished work, but she relied on her years of experience with Seuss—which included hand-coloring for him under his direction at the end of his life—to try and posthumously interpret his wishes. She carefully selected which hand-scrawled edits he might have implemented, creating storyboards on the wall just as the late author had, and studied the colors of other similar-era Seuss books for the illustrations, ultimately hand-coloring four or five different versions before selecting the final shades.

The finished product tells the tale of two siblings who Seuss fans might recognize. The narrator and his sister, Kay, are the same kids who appear in One Fish Two Fish, which came out in 1960. The increasingly imaginative characters and boisterous rhymes are classic Seuss. But the story is not quite as fantastical or freewheeling as One Fish Two Fish. The brother and sister arrive at the pet store determined to pick a pet but find their growing list of (occasionally fictional) options overwhelming. The perfectly proportioned moral being that one should learn to make up one's mind lest one risk, "If we do not choose, / we will end up with NONE."

In the Sunday Book Review in The New York Times, Maria Russo posits that this slight concession to convention is what caused Seuss to set What Pet Should I Get? aside. Audrey has said that she suspects her late husband simply forgot about that project as his fame and laundry list of story ideas grew. But Russo speculates that the decision to pass over What Pet Should I Get? was more intentional, suggesting that:

He looked over the book, and he talked it over with [his first wife] Helen; he thought about how much fun he had had with all its crazy creatures, and he started playing around with another book that would let the sister and brother off the hook—let them forget about their pressing pet store errand and instead hang out all day long in the commerce-free, parent-free world of “One Fish.”

With Theodor Geisel gone we can never really know why he made the choices he did regarding this or any other story. But for fans of the author, What Pet Should I Get? will offer a chance to revisit the rollicking world of Seuss.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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New Book Highlights the World's Most Depressing Place Names

If you like a little ennui with your wanderlust, we've got a book for you.

As Hyperallergic reports, the popular Instagram account @sadtopographies recently got the coffee table book treatment with the beautiful and gloomy Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness. Since 2015, master of misery Damien Rudd has been compiling Google Maps screen shots of real-life locales like Melancholy Lane, Mistake Island, Hopeless Way, and Cape Disappointment on the social media platform. Scrolling through them will make you laugh and marvel at how these names even came to be.

Created in collaboration with French publisher Jean Boîte Éditions, Triste Tropique includes 89 locales accompanied by amusingly poetic captions (called "romances" by the publisher) from writer Cécile Coulon. "Anyway, does it even really exist?" she writes of Doubtful Island. Each place is printed to scale with its exact location provided. The title is a reference to another glum book: Tristes Tropiques by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

This isn't the first time @sadtopographies has been made into a book; last year's Sad Topographies: A Disenchanted Travellers' Guide delved further into the origins of depressing place names. "I have not been to, nor is it likely I will visit, any of the places in this book," Rudd wrote in that 2017 title, but perhaps you'll feel differently.

See the cover, featuring Disappointment Island, below. While you're at it, check out 14 of the most depressing place names in North America here.

Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness cover
Jean Boîte Éditions

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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