Oct 09 2018177 How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Be Okay With Ghost Tours

Some reflections on giving tours, ghost tours, and how the Philip experiment is kind of like Dungeons and Dragons.

Sep 30 2018176 The Cadaver Synod

In 897 Pope Stephen VI put the corpse of one of his predecessors, Formosus, on trial. The current pope ordered that the former pope’s dead body be dressed in papal finery and put on a throne to stand trial. Stephen VI acted as prosecutor, accusing his predecessor of attempting to have two bishoprics at once and coveting the papacy. The current pope then ordered the Formosus’ body stripped of its finery, the fingers on his right hand be cut off, and his body thrown into the Tiber.

The painting below, Pope Formosus and Stephen VII, is the work of French artist Jean-Paul Laurens and painted in 1870.

Sep 23 2018175 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part Two

From 1954 until 2011 the Comics Code Authority exercised control over what could and couldn’t be in comic books. The first version of the code was one of the most restrictive content regimes U.S. media has ever known, banning subject matter such as sex, drugs, and supernatural elements such as werewolves and vampires. The Code was revised in 1971 and 1989, before slowly fading away after 2001 and then being wholly abandoned by 2011. The Comics Code Authority seal is now, ironically, owned by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Sep 14 2018174 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part One

From 1964 until 2011 comic books were nominally approved by a content regime called the Comics Code Authority. The Authority grew out of anti-comic book sentiment in the early part of the twentieth century. Anti-comics advocates like Fredric Wertham portrayed comic books as filled with crime, sex, and corrupting ideas. In 1954 a senate subcommittee headed by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver all but put comic books on trial, with Kefauver grilling EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines about the content of then-popular horror comics. The exchange would change comic book publishing forever.

Aug 28 2018173 Roanoke

The disappearance of the Roanoke colony is one of America’s oldest mysteries. However, the story of the Roanoke colony was only a major pillar of American historiography after the 1830s, and later on in the 1800s Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of colonial governor and artist John White, became a symbol of the American South and white supremacy.

For more on the Roanoke colony check out Andrew Lawler’s excellent new book The Secret Token, which I heartily endorse.

Aug 20 2018172 Live at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, The Tempest and the New World

Shakespeare’s Tempest is a fantasy, but it’s backgrounded by European encounters with the New World. When the play was written in 1610 or 1611 European sailors had already been exploring the Americas for over a century. References to the New World show up in both the play’s text and themes, and scholars have often viewed the tempest through a colonial or postcolonial lens, though it still escapes easy allegory.

This episode was recorded live at The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a Portland art space.

Aug 01 2018171 Live at Floyd’s, The Mythical Geography of the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest was one of the last areas to be accurately mapped by European and American cartographers. At various times mapmakers thought that it was near a Asian region called Ania, that California was an Island, or that a great inland sea took up much of the American west. When Lewis and Clark ventured westward, they had a clearer idea of the coastline, yet they were still taken by surprise when they encountered the Rocky anc Cascade mountain ranges.

Visuals to accompany this live event are here.

Jul 22 2018170 Phreak Out!

Hacking predated personal computers. From the 1960s until the 1990s early hackers known as “phreaks” learned how to hack into phone lines, make long-distance calls for free, set up secret conference calls, and explore the global telephone network.

Jul 08 2018169 The Telharmonium

In the first decade of the 20th century you could pick up a phone in New York City and listen to the world’s first ever electronic synthesizer. The Telharmonium was the invention of Thaddeus Cahill, and the 200 ton musical instrument used rotating cogs to produce electronic sounds, accessible to anyone who subscribed to what’s arguably the progenitor of all musical streaming services.

Jun 30 2018168 Dorothy and Friends

In the early 1980s the US Navy was determined to uncover a secret gay subculture at the Great Lakes Naval Base just outside of Chicago. All of the men they were looking for seemed to be friends of Dorothy. If the NIS could find, Dorothy, they thought, they could blow this whole thing wide open.

We’ve talked about The Wizard of Oz and monetary policy before. This is different.