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Category Archives: Marketing

Charlotte Observer, June 1, 1891. Read more.

Los Angeles Times, August 22, 1887. Seems like a commodity as poetical as graveyard honey really ought to have some sort of magical properties, but what? Maybe it cures grief but only temporarily, and when the grief returns it is redoubled, or its stay is lengthened sevenfold. Or maybe it’s just a good poultice for lumbago.

I was trying to figure out what this story reminded me of, and it finally came to me: It’s that weird-ass thing in the Good Book about Samson and the lion (Judges 14), which incidentally sets a Biblical precedent for not burdening consumers with too much information about where your bees have been. I quote:

And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.

And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.

I like honey, and once even helped a beekeeper harvest his hives, which was incredibly interesting. But honey is still objectively weird as an isolated, grandfathered exception to the vehement Western rejection of anything that remotely smacks of entomophagy. If honey were a new product, it would go absolutely nowhere. “It’s the amazing new sugary goo produced by flying bugs to feed their squirming white larvae! Try it, it’s good! Don’t worry, we’ve taken most of the larvae out.” Good luck with that, Don Draper.

And yet God clearly intended for us to eat the bugs, else He wouldn’t have made so damn many of them, nor provided us with detailed instructions as to which ones to avoid and which to dine upon. That’s all in Leviticus 11:20 through 22:

All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth;

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.

The key clause here is the permission to eat the beetle after his kind. Since beetles make up 25% of all known life forms, this is God’s way of saying that the bug buffet is wide open. And yet we have strayed so far from the dietary path He proposes for us. Even to the extent that when a book entitled What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great, and Living Longer comes along, it mentions only the prohibition against that which flies and creeps on all fours, and skates blithely over the probability that Jesus was stuffing His face with bugs from the manger to Gethsemane.

Now I’ll grant that there’s no actual description of Jesus eating bugs in the Bible, but neither do the Gospels document Him using the latrine, which I think we can presume he did, else it would likely have excited comment.

Anyway, reform has to start somewhere, so let’s everybody agree to eat a bug today. Deal?

Henceforth I will be diverting Chicago-related currents of my historical blogorrhea to the website of the Chicago Reader, where they will appear under the rubric Bad News From the Past. Some such content may feel  remedial to close followers of THC, but I’ll try to keep actual recycling to a minimum.

pockBoston Daily Journal. December 5, 1889. Tom Stoppard and Richard Powers are collaborating on an operatic libretto encompassing these items. Johnny Greenwood is signed to write the score.

Oh, just kiddin’. But the longer I stare at these old newspapers, the more I am bewitched by the cumulative insanity and variety and intellectual free-fall of these deep stacks of randomly interesting nonsense.

They put me much in mind the work of Neil Postman, whose books The Disappearance of Childhood and Amusing Ourselves to Death seemed to me very profound when I read them in my 20s. The guy’s basic theme was that print imposed rationality, but video annihilated it. That, according to Mr. Postman, was because TV equaled vaudeville and vaudeville equaled chaos. Whereas print was inherently rational.

But that’s fundamentally utopian, i.e. stupid, because vaudeville is the default condition of the human mind, regardless of prevailing medium. Am I right? I got Shakespeare and Chaucer on my side here.

P.S. I see some boffins at a Harvardian thinktank are on my side too. I would have tidied up, avoir su.

huitresMacon Telegraph, June 17, 1889. Can you believe it? We’re talking here about an average sororal poundage of 175. And yet, this is a mere bagatelle in relation to some of the ensuing prodigies. For example: Read More »

horse Daily Alaska Dispatch, August 4, 1900. By “patties” the author here means pâtés, as the next paragraph will show. It’s inferable that he is unaware that French people had been in the regular habit of eating horseflesh since the Revolution (when it was both a good source of protein and an anti-aristocratic gesture). Read More »

manufacturedMedical News, March 30, 1895. First, that is one kick-ass opening sentence. Read it over a couple of times, roll it around in your mouth, and try to work it into an office-cooler conversation later in the afternoon. Second, given the dismal nutrition of ordinary poor kids at the time, just imagine the deprivation involved in the creation of these “Lilliputians.” Must have been a real balancing act keeping them alive while stunting them sufficiently to impress. Read More »

gator kidsDaily Picayune, September 12, 1882. “The Bloody Knife Combination Company!” Now that is a proper name for an entertainment concern. No wonder they were able to attract the top acts. The stipulation that McDonald family was white raises the question: Were black people considered to be especially prone to generating lusus naturae? You can see how that impression might come about, as black sports of nature would be that much more prone to commercial exploitation. Read More »

Charlotte Daily Dec 20 1898Charlotte Daily, December 20, 1898. Our sapient correspondent Jackie of Finland has pointed out that vender gato como liebre (“selling cats for rabbits”) is a Spanish expression meaning “to pass off a cheap imitation as the genuine article.” I’m trying to figure out whether whether the expression had any currency in English, or whether these apparent cognates are just accidental. Tangentially, what kind of Italian name is “Shamber”? Nicely, it does evoke “shambles,” which originally meant “slaughterhouse.”

Observer 8 5 33The (London) Observer, August 5, 1833. I found the original British news item whence this prior post on the sub rosa marketing of cat meat was freely plagiarized. Handily, it provides a name for the entrepreneur, which reduces the possibility that this is just a 19th-century urban myth. (The original text also helps account for the odd use of italics in the pirated version: “les pauvres malheureux” [“the unhappy poor”] is transcribed as “poor” but retains its original italics.) The fact that the captive cats were eating one another puts me in mind of the early indie cineaste Dwain Esper and his demented exploitation masterpiece Maniac (1934), which features a like-minded hustler who breeds cats for their fur. The operation runs on a perpetual-motion principle, whereby he feeds rats to cats, then feeds the rats on the skinned bodies of the cats. “I figured out that rats breed faster than cats,” he explains to a visitor. “And catskin makes good fur. Cats eat rats. And, rats eat raw meat. That is, they eat the carcasses of the cats. So, the cats eat the rats, the rats eat the cats, and I get the skins.” “A rats eating cat?” boggles his interlocuter. “Why, that is news!” According to Kino’s DVD release of the film, the cat ranch was a real facility that Esper integrated into his “plot.” Which would pretty much have to be the case, given the budgets he was working with.