Posts Tagged: Lili Loofbourow
8

Hello, Animal

I am an oblivious person. I don't notice things that bother me.

That doesn't mean I live a happy, contented life, or that I'm never bothered. I am bothered, I just don't realize it. If my kitchen is messy, for example, which is often, I do not prepare food in it. That may sound like perfectly logical behavior, but logic plays no part in what is actually a series of competing impulses. The way I experience not-cooking as a function of kitchen messiness is as a Thing That Happens Over and Over Until I Start To Wonder If There's a Correlation. It's not a decision I've made; rather, it's [...]

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The Livestream Ended: How I Got Off My Computer And Onto The Street At Occupy Oakland

When I heard the “We Are the 99%” slogan, I worried. I am movement-skittish. I don't like being spoken for. Anytime I hear the language of political clichés, whether about “workers” or “job creators,” my ears shut down. I know those vocabularies, and I don't agree with the worldviews that produce them.

So I didn't go to Occupy Oakland during the two weeks it was a camp in the Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. My partner, who doesn't share my qualms, went frequently. He would come home and tell me about what he'd seen: the media center powered by an electricity-generating bicycle, the daycare center, the full-time kitchen, which fed [...]

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The Mouse That Crawled Up Inside A Man, And Other Urban Legends Of The 17th Century

The Internet, Preserver of Our Fleeting Shames, also resurrects the lovely (because distant) indignities of the past. Prominent among these is the Athenian Mercury, the semi-reputable 1690s London advice column—put out by a group of misfits who called themselves The Athenian Society—to which many a citizen turned when wondering why people swoon at the sight of cats or laugh in the presence of pork.

A column about familiar fears and off-kilter folklore, the stuff the embarrassed children of a generation decided to forget, is built on the backs of modern-day Bartlebys who scanned and transcribed reams of faded, brittle, near-illegible paper objects. Anyone [...]

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How To Make 17th-Century Delights: Curd Cakes

A series about recipes that may seem odd or outmoded and yet we're curious to try!

As 17th-century delights go, curd cakes sounded good. Kinda like comfort food. When the two of us first came across the recipe, we placed bets on where curd cakes might fall on the Elegance-Meter. Were they dukes or peasants? Might (Dame) Maggie Smith have said, "What is a curd cake?" on "Downton Abbey" (back when it was good), or would she have readily ordered them up for tea? On the whole, curd cakes seem less festive than our previous concoction, whipp'd syllabub, what with the latter’s spume and special [...]

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The Golden Age Of Dirty Talk

It would never occur to me to describe ears as “handsome volutes to the human capital.” That it did to Charles Lamb, who also called them “ingenious labyrinthine inlets” and “indispensable side-intelligencers,” says one thing about him and something else entirely about me, but it says something, too, about the linguistic environment where volutes to the human capital can thrive. Whether because of the Internet or some other mysterious, homogenizing influence, our language has lost some biodiversity. Even our obscenities—the parts of language least likely to lose their verve—have dwindled, and the survivors have dulled from overuse. “You've got balls,” we say, when once we could have yelled that [...]

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Dear Athenian Mercury: The Non-Reproductive Sex Issue

History steers clear of the masturbators. It sidesteps erectile dysfunction and abortions in favor of tidy genealogies whose bustling branches confirm the basically Darwinian principle that, when it comes to sexual habits, those who propagate leave better paper trails. The exceptions aren't exactly razed from the Book of Life, but their contributions are usually buried in cavernous parentheticals and shady marginalia. They don't pop up much in the main text.

Luckily for us, there's the Athenian Mercury, the wildly popular advice column to which many a nameless 17th-century Londoner turned with his or her burning questions. If the Mercury avoided mentioning the unmentionable, it made up for [...]

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How To Make 17th-Century Delights: Whipp’d Syllabub

A series about recipes that may seem odd or outmoded and yet we're curious to try!

Hospitality mavens of the 1690s knew that, if you were expecting company, you’d do well to serve up a nice cold syllabub. (As the nursery rhyme goes, the queen of clubs made syllabubs.) Syllabub, a foamy, marvelous vehicle for wine and cream and froth, inspired strong feelings. “I shall hate Sillabubs as long as I live,” announces Lady Addleplot, the “a highflown Stickler against Government” in Thomas d’Urfey’s play Love for Money. John Donne has a satire about two country bumpkins who choose a too-hot custard instead of “Choice Sillabubs with Sugar hill’d [...]

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The Fumes Of The Wine Do Ascend, And Other Pieces Of 17th-Century Drinking Wisdom

If you've never considered drunkenness a sign of loyalty, or sobriety as treason, it's unlikely you will ever understand the English. In England, toasts, the time-honored tradition of watching hapless well-wishers fail at stand-up comedy, were once serious affairs. So intense were the feelings inspired by what one drank and why that during a brief but sober period, toasts were legally banned.

In this edition of John Dunton's "Athenian Mercury," which, as the first advice column in English, was once the go-to source for wisdom for many a muddled 17th-century Londoner, the city's citizenry writes in with booze-related questions. Why red eyes? Double vision? How does God [...]

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Dear Athenian Mercury: Questions And Answers From The First Advice Column In English

I'm an advice column junkie. I've never submitted a question but I read them obsessively. I also enjoy eavesdropping in the comments sections below as "Willow07" and "Jim no avatar" wrangle over the thorny issue of whether the obsessive-compulsive should or should not apologize for reorganizing his mother-in-law's Ladies of the American Revolution tampon collection. And if my reading has taught me anything, it is this: The debate is never really about the tampon collection. It's actually about defining standards we can all agree to when we condemn people and how we prioritize them. This kind of extra-legal self-legislation is—let's be honest—the only form of democracy we can actually [...]