Monday, July 27, 2009


"One Hundred Years Hence"

A neat find: some trade cards cerca 1900 of what the world will look like today -- though, charmingly, clothing does not appear to be subject to change:

The prospect of futuristic weather control seems to have particularly cheered our ancestors:

And, of course, alien invasions:

Oops -- sorry, that last one's from a gallery of Aliens Invading Vintage Postcards....

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Good night, Seattle!

I'll be reading and signing The Book of William tomorrow, Monday July 20th, at the University Bookstore at 7 pm....

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Bring Me The Bill

I'm reading and signing The Book of William this Wednesday at...

Powell's Books
10th & Burnside
Portland, OR
7:30 p.m.


Sobbing Children and Singing Shillings

I'm in the new music issue of The Believer with a piece on William Gardiner's obscure 1832 treatise The Music of Nature. The book was a great favorite of Emerson and Margaret Fuller, not least because Gardiner attempt to render ordinary sounds in musical notation:

Gardiner was fascinated with the sound of ordinary objects, like ringing true and counterfeit coins against a tabletop: "Half crowns having the sound of--

--bankers quickly discover the least deviation from the proper tone, by which they readily detect the counterfeits," he wrote....

The Music of Nature is about music in the way that Anatomy of Melancholy or Religio Medici are about medicine: it is an extraordinary digressive meditation. His music scholarship is no more reliable today than Burton's medical advice is, and yet how can one not be charmed by a text that observes that a glass of flat champagne rings with a purer tone than a bubbly glass does? What parent has not suspected that "Providence has bestowed upon children a power of voice, in proportion to their size, ten times greater than that of an adult"? Who would not want to believe his wonderful claim that "In a watchmaker's shop the timepieces or clocks, connected with same wall or shelf, have such a sympathetic effect... that they stop those which beat in irregular time"?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Gentlemen, My Work Here Is Done

My latest Slate piece features a robot, a serial killer, and Cecil B. DeMille.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Everybody Loves Slush!

On a weekend like this, you need...


(More) Fun with Library Microforms

A headline I found this week in a 1907 New York Evening Mail:

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Happy July 4th from Fry & Laurie

(Hat tip: The Stranger)


Borrowing a Cup of Sugar

Found in an 1897 New York Herald:

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