Berfrois

Gassy

Gassy

On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box specially designed by the engineer James Watt for the inhalation of gases, into which he requested the physician Dr. Robert Kinglake to release twenty quarts of nitrous oxide every five minutes for as long as he could retain consciousness.

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John Beckman: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Americans!

John Beckman: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Americans!

Blackbeard in Smoke and Flames, Frank E. Schoonover, 1922 by John Beckman While writing an early draft of my recent book, American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt, I became impatient with the Northeastern cultural glacier that stretched between the wild party that was 1620s Merry Mount and obstreperous...

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Dead Thought-Forms Talk

Dead Thought-Forms Talk

“The music of Mendelssohn” by Benjamin Breen “I have always considered myself a voice of what I believe to be a greater renaissance — the revolt of the soul against the intellect — now beginning in the world,” wrote William Butler Yeats to his mentor, the Irish nationalist John...

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Eugenia Herbert on Julia Margaret Cameron

Eugenia Herbert on Julia Margaret Cameron

The Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron is currently undergoing a revival with a recent exhibition of her work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She has long evoked interest not only because of her distinctive style but also because of her eccentric personality, her dominant — very dominant...

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Around the World With Elizabeth Bisland

Around the World With Elizabeth Bisland

On the morning of November 14, 1889, John Brisben Walker, the wealthy publisher of the monthly magazine The Cosmopolitan, boarded a New Jersey ferry bound for New York City. Like many other New Yorkers, he was carrying a copy of The World, the most widely read and influential newspaper...

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Lisa Rosner: No Bones About Rapping

Lisa Rosner: No Bones About Rapping

Located in a historic building in Philadelphia, The Mütter Museum attracts a steady stream of visitors to its exhibits in medical history. Describing its exhibits as “Disturbingly Informative,” the museum’s highlights include a collection of skulls and other body parts put together by physicians; a startlingly large and varied...

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To Jenny Diski, the 1950s seem a pale dove gray…

To Jenny Diski, the 1950s seem a pale dove gray…

by Jenny Diski Family Britain by David Kynaston, Walker & Company, 776 pp. Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II,  by A. N. Wilson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 482 pp. I was born in central London in 1947, a child in a very special generation. In no time at...

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Woodrow Wilson and Race by Eric S. Yellin

Woodrow Wilson and Race by Eric S. Yellin

Woodrow Wilson, 1919 by Eric S. Yellin Progress is never inevitable, even in reform eras. The United States at the turn of the twentieth century was in a progressive mood. It was a time in which the nation’s leaders tackled some of modern life’s most vexing problems: from taming...

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Michael B. Katz: Back to Poverty

Michael B. Katz: Back to Poverty

In retrospect, the late 1980s, when the first version of The Undeserving Poor was written, appear a paradoxically optimistic moment for those of us concerned about mounting an attack on poverty. True, Republicans retained the presidency; public benefits had taken a hard blow; trade unions reeled under a savage...

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Barbara Newman: Romance

Barbara Newman: Romance

Near the end of Susanna Clarke’s magical history, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, comes a peculiarly chilling scene. A magician named Childermass, riding through a wood festooned with corpses, arrives at the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart. Before the castle stands a champion who defends its lady...

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Man

Man

Frederick Douglass, 1852 From The New York Times: Upon arriving at the White House, Douglass found “the stairway was crowded with applicants … and as I was the only dark spot among them, I expected to have to wait at least half a day.” But within two minutes he...

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Jill Norgren: American Women Pioneers of Law

Jill Norgren: American Women Pioneers of Law

Belva Lockwood by Jill Norgren No woman shall degrade herself by practicing law…if I can save her. I think the clack of those possible Portias will never be heard at Dwight’s moot courts. “Women’s Rights-women” are uncommonly loud & offensive of late. I loathe the lot. — George Templeton...

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Joseph Banks excelled at controlling his public image…

Joseph Banks excelled at controlling his public image…

Figure 1: “The Fly-Catching Macaroni” (1772), engraved by Whipcord, published by M. Darly (from the New York Public Library, not openly licensed) – Source. by Patricia Fara Benjamin Robert Haydon, the artist who helped bring the Elgin marbles to the British Museum, was scathing about portraiture. It is, he...

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John O’Malley: Trent

John O’Malley: Trent

Council of Trent, Pasquale Cati, 1588 by John O’Malley Most people have heard of the Council of Trent, and probably most of what they have heard is negative. It was a church council convoked to condemn the Reformation. It initiated a repressive epoch in Catholic countries and opposed everything...

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Alexander McGregor: Cuban Machismo

Alexander McGregor: Cuban Machismo

Following the sheer, inviolable force of gravity that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, so much freedom was promised to the people, who in turn expected so much liberty, and yet the revolutionary soil proved infertile. In the construction of a genuinely socialist state, shaped upon Bolivarian principles,...

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Christopher Beckwith: Disputed Questions

Christopher Beckwith: Disputed Questions

The lone survivor of traditional Western European ‘scientific’ culture is science. It has survived because it is now the handmaid of technology, without which contemporary civilization would collapse utterly. Anyone who doubts this should try to get a research grant for genuinely “pure” research.

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Bakkheia!

Bakkheia!

Acratophorus, ("giver of unmixed wine"), at Phigaleia in Arcadia. Acroreites at Sicyon. Adoneus ("ruler") in his Latinised, Bacchic cult.

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John Gaffney: Hitler’s ‘Something’

John Gaffney: Hitler’s ‘Something’

The stunning spectacle of mass hero-worship in the Third Reich is compelling, in particular, the sight of unbridled joy at these mass rallies. This is even more so given that we – unlike those smiling faces - know what happened next, the nightmare of World War II and the...

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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