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Category Archives: Jurisprudence

Washington Post, August 17, 1929. Rehearsing for his act and doing a little advance publicity work too, I’ll warrant. If I’d been this guy’s counsel, I’d have thrown Leviticus 11:22 in the judge’s face: “Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.”
I’ve been delving into the circus wild man theme lately on a account of I just finished reading William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley, which I heartily recommend though not to the timid. Sixty-four years after publication, it’s still a seriously disturbing toilet-crawl. Makes Jim Thompson look like Beatrix Potter.

Chicago Tribune, April 7, 1911. Sorry about the missing text on the right margin. I can’t for the life of me figure out what the missing letters are from the last sentence in the third paragraph: “He fell like —lok with a fractured skull.” I suppose there must be a typo here, such that “lok” should really be “lock.” But then it’s part of what? Bollock? Pollock? Oarlock? Warlock?
Anyway, I know exactly the sort of douchebag Leo Toteleck was, and I must dissent from the coroner’s jury decision not to prosecute him. I know it was the style at the time not to punish most first-time killers (except cop-killers and wife-killers), but practical jokers don’t just merit the same leniency.

Wheeling Register, July 3, 1883. The phrase “poisoning the well” still gets bandied about a lot, but only as a metaphor in discussions about rhetorical rules of engagement. But back before the days of socialized tap water, literal well-poisoning was a common crime. But the crime was nowhere near as common as charges of well-poisoning, because everybody who drank from a well was very conscious of its vulnerability to interference. That’s an unbeatable recipe for hysteria and moral panic, and in medieval Europe, Jews, witches, lepers and Muslims were all regarded as incorrigible well-poisoners–which helped keep life interesting for them. Read more.

Dallas Morning News, November 6, 1889. Time for some follow-up on that recovered memory-inflected FBAS (False Bender Arrest Syndrome) drama whereof we spake last month. Deviating from the journalistic norms of its day, the Dallas Morning News decided ahead of time that this story smells like bullshit. There can never be enough of this kind of skepticism, especially in journalism. Read More »

San Jose Evening News, June 3, 1904. Time to touch base with mince pie. Read more.

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 26, 1904. Let no one accuse John W. “Black Spot” Williams of an underdeveloped work ethic.

Baltimore Sun, December 16, 1897. A century ago, partiality to moo shu pork was a mark of extreme eccentricity, at least among non-“Celestials.”

pure uglinessDaily Critic (Washington, D.C.), May 24, 1878. I love the epistemological nuance of “She is now insane.”

hang em allChicago Tribune, January 9, 1919. Ah, the helping professions. This guy could have carved out a career of some distinction in Germany just 20 years later. Read More »

peddlersChicago Tribune, May 24, 1911. People piss and moan about the prevalence of advertising these days, but in certain respects the racket has died down.