Monthly Archives: September 2016

Sympathy for Trump Voters

Obviously I watched the debate last night, and obviously I though Trump came across as a gibbering madman. Predictably, my social media bubble was filled with statements such as “How could anyone with half a brain vote for Trump?” or “The only reason to vote for Trump is if you’re a racist” (these are more […]

One Direction

Obviously no white person has ever actually been offended by a black family cosplaying as the Simpsons. So what is going on here? It’s possible Kelsey is just trolling, but let’s take the principle of charity (for once) and  assume that it’s more complicated than that. What would make Kelsey say something so stupid?* Doubtless Kelsey […]

Contemporary Allusion

[Warning: Drier than usual.] I recently read an academic book from 1886 about Elizabethan theater, and the author, A.W. Verity, made a lot of references to literature as he wrote. He made a lot of references to Elizabethan playwrights, of course, and to critics who had edited and discussed them previously, but he also drops […]

The Aphorisms of Johann Kaspar Lavater

Johann Kaspar Lavater is best known (insofar as anyone can be well known as a physiognomist) as a physiognomist but back in his day—the late eighteenth century—he was up to all sorts of tricks, including a 1787 book of aphorisms, Aphorisms on Man. His friend, the painter Henry Fuseli, translated the book into English in […]

Cultural Appropriation and You

In the second sentence of her Brisbane speech, Lionel Shriver called herself a “renowned iconoclast,” and yet this is not the part of the speech people are angry about. She also says “for my brothers and I,” but people are angry because she’s opposed to cultural appropriation. Are you opposed to cultural appropriation? Who knows! It’s […]

The Far Side, 1883 Edition

In 1883, publishers Cassell, Petter, Galpin, & Co. came out with a  series of books “uniform in size and price” (8vo, 1s. each): Cassell’s Children’s Treasuries. Several volumes in the series are idiosyncratic collections of nursery rhymes, the usual Mother Goose fare with an emphasis on Scottish regional rhymes, and the occasional poem by John Keats […]

We Need Diverse Children’s Books, but Not Those Diverse Children’s Books

TW: Really a large number of racist caricatures and slurs. Mother Jones had an interesting article, and some SEO expert persuaded them to put the words “slavery” and “twitter” in the URL, but actually it’s about diversity in children’s books. The article has problems, but it includes a passage that is impressive in its honesty […]

What I Learned on 9/11

On September 11, 2001, I caught the last train into Manhattan (from Hoboken) and tried to go to work. This was a huge mistake, but I didn’t realize it until the police frantically cleared the PATH station when the train hit 33rd Street. I sat on the stoop of the comic store, waiting in vain for a […]


This is a line from Catch-22, from Yossarian’s critique of God: “What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements?” Certainly incontinence is objectively bad, insofar as any loss of ability is bad, but Yossarian is persuasive […]

Problems for Any Future Progress: The Crutch Problem

Anything you rely on too much gets called a crutch. Do you use subsidies as a crutch? Do you use drugs as a crutch? Do you use mental illness as a crutch? (These lazily-googled links are not interesting, they’re just there to establish usage in the corpus.) Always the implication is that crutches are bad. […]