Quantcast
 

Hello, Animal

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

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. READ MORE

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 “the testimonies of your Manhood are swell'd as big, Sirrah, as a couple of Norfolk dumplings!” Where we use mean hypotheticals, like "I would love to have the ability to make you sore," our ancestors promised each other nights spent “in prigging, wapping, and telling of drunken stories.” READ MORE

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. READ MORE

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. READ MORE

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. READ MORE

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 participate in and enforce. (Sometimes it even pretends to be legal; this is why I loved Judge Wapner as a kid and why my dad loves Judge Judy.) READ MORE