U.S. Has Known About Climate Change For 200 Years

Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl-era “Migrant Mother” was another warning Americans ignored.

Rising sea levels threaten to drown over 13,000 American historical sites up and down the east coast over the next century. That’s according to a new study from the Panel on Climate Change, which found that in addition to displacing millions of people, engorged oceans may soon swallow the Kennedy Space Center, an historic North Carolina light house and, perhaps most ironically, Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Why is this ironic? Because the destruction of Europeans’ first permanent home here would be the culmination of America’s long and very willful ignorance on climate change.

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Found in the LOC: 20 Bike Prints From the 1890s

Except for those completely committed to bike life, most of us are packing away our wheels for the winter, tearing at the freedom and fun put on hold until warmer days return. While I can’t control the weather, I can offer a few visual treats to help you get through, all from the 1890s, the period in which bicycles as know them took off…

There had been bicycle-type vehicles for decades, including variations on the pedal-less contraption German inventor Karl von Drais’ called a “running machine,” but which the public often called a “velocipede,” a “dandy horse” or, in England, a “pedestrian curricle,” and there was also the unforgiving British device nicknamed the “bone-shaker,” but bicycles as we know them didn’t take off until the 1860s, when the French company Michaux added pedals. Though was slow going at first — bikes didn’t arrive in America until 1878 —the vehicles finally became a full-on craze by the 1890s.

With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, when there were so many options of transport — steam trains, steam ships, automobiles and subways — men and women were opting to propel themselves. (So popular were bikes with women that some of the images you see here allude to a revolutionary change not only in women’s fashion, but their place in society at large.)

The bike’s popularity hasn’t waned since, becoming an indelible part of human culture the world over. Now, if we can just muster a bit more interest, we can leave this climate change thing in the dust in no time: a 2015 study showed that increasing global bike riding to 20% in urban areas would help reduce carbon emissions 11% by 2050. But we in the States still have a long way to go: current ridership in U.S. cities is only 1%.

Until then, and without further ado, nineteen more bike-themed adverts, inserts, road maps and lithographs, AFTER THE JUMP. (Above, an 1895 lithograph.)

(And f more “Found in the L.O.C., click HERE.)

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Was ‘Pocahontas’ Her Real Name?

Tuesdays are traditionally wordplay days over here, and my original intent was to do a short post on Dictionary.com’s word of the year, “complicit.” Then President Trump went and again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and, as he does, changed the game.

So, real quick, here’s something I learned today, while researching the real-life woman we call Pocahontas: Pocahontas wasn’t her real name. Not really, at least.

Like many Powhatan Indians, “P” was given a series of names throughout the course of her life: her birth name was Matoaka, meaning “bright stream between the hills;” she was later given the name Amonute, which doesn’t translate from Powhatan to English; and later in life, after marrying John Rolfe and converting to Christianity, she changed her name to Rebecca.

According to Jamestown Secretary William Strachey, Pocahontas was a childhood nickname given to her by her father; translated to “little wanton,” it captured her adventurous independence. But according to William Stith, a 19th century historian who devoted his life to studying the Virginia colony, Pocahontas was something of a codename to ward of white curses. From his 1865 The History of the First Settlement of Virginia:

“The Indians carefully concealed [her real name] from the English and changed it to Pocahontas, out of a superstitious fear, lest they, by the knowledge of her true name, should be enabled to do her some hurt.”

As someone who just completed a book all about American myths, I understand this could be apocryphal; and it’s just as possible the name Pocahontas was both a childhood nickname and a curse deterrent. But if Stith’s correct and “Pocahontas” was something of a shield against vexation, then there’s a certain irony to Trump and his supporters using the sham sobriquet to slur Elizabeth Warren. The Powhatan prophecy came true, only for a woman by another name.

(For more Fun with Words, click HERE.)


Kochs Buying ‘Time,’ Threatening Free Speech

It’s official: after months of speculation and two failed attempts, Meredith is buying Time Inc, with ample help from the reliably right-wing Koch brothers.

This is just the latest story about conservative figures snapping up or consolidating struggling media outlets: American Media bought Us Weekly earlier this year from Wenner Media, basically securing their hold on supermarket tabloids — they also publish the National Enquirer, the National Examiner and Star, reaching and shaping millions of voters in the process — and Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 193 television stations in 100 markets that reach 40% of the market, is hoping to merge with Tribune Media, a deal that would extend their reach into New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

While FCC rules prohibit such massive, monopolistic media solidifications Donald Trump’s pick over there, Ajit Pai, is helping clear the opposition so that the pro-Trump company can have its way. Pai’s also helping the Trump administration eliminate Net Neutrality, effectively allowing telecommunications companies to restrict access and content they deem unacceptable. This is all extremely frightening — and not simply because the interests here are all conservative.

The consolidation of so much media by any political group or interest poses a grave threat to free speech, free speech that’s already being assaulted by none-other than the President of the United States. If we want our democracy to be the best it can be, we need opposing views to inform the public; control of the media by one political party or another just takes the nation one step closer to dictatorial territory. Sure, freedom of speech may exist in such a climate, but does it matter if its drowned out by bigger, more powerful and more omnipresent outlets?

Black Lesbians in the 1920s, a Quick Review

The great migration of American black people from the South to the North coincided with a general urbanization of America: a trend of people, all people, hightailing it from rural environs and decamping in concrete jungles. These mass movements led to all sorts of cross-cultural fusions and new freedoms of assembly, and this was especially true for LGBT people who now saw and met and loved other people like themselves. After years of thinking they were the only one, they found groups of like-minded friends.

These two trends — black migration and LGBT awakenings — are explored in Cookie Woolner’s recent Process piece, “’Have We a New Sex Problem Here?’ Black Queer Women in the Early Great Migration.” Here’s a snippet:

By the 1920s, black lady lovers had more places to meet one another than ever before, such as the popular entertainment industry, which encompassed segregated forms of black vaudeville, the spectacle of black musicals, and the rapidly expanding market for “race records”—later renamed “rhythm and blues.”

Popular performing women like Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters (pictured)  subtly hailed their audiences with veiled references to homosexuality and took advantage of the privacy and liminal space of touring life to enact same-sex relationships on the road.

Beyond the stage, black lady lovers were becoming newly visible on northern city streets.

It’s a fascinating look at a population often overlooked in black, female and queer histories and you should read it.

Melvil Dewey, Open Access Hero (and Pig)

Melvil Dewey’s not the most heroic of names, but what he did and why he did it make the legendary librarian a true champion of free speech and shareable information.

Inventor of the eponymous Dewey Decimel System, Dewey’s road to fame began during his gig as librarian at his alma mater, Amherst College, in 1876, when the educator was 25-years-old. Frustrated by prevailing modes of organization — primarily book acquisition date and height, accessed solely by trained professionals and intellectual bigwigs — Dewey disrupted the status quo by creating a revolutionary system that not only categorized books by subject and sub-subject, making locating a book a breeze, but that also opened access for millions of readers. No longer were in-the-know insiders the only ones who could find a book. Now everyone who knew the numbers 1-10 could look up a book’s code and track it down in the stacks.

Originally isolated only to Amherst, Dewey’s system spread to other universities, public libraries and, eventually, world, and today it remains the globe’s prevailing method for organizing books, known far and wide not as the Dewey Decimel System, but as the Universal Decimal Classification. While that is indeed an accurate name, capturing the system’s global reach as well as its purpose —  openness —  it seemed to me that the name Dewey deserves commemoration, because without him, accessing knowledge and text would still be highly restricted.

Note I used the word “seemed,” because I learned while researching this piece that Dewey was also quite the male pig: in addition to making unwanted sexual advances on at least four women, he allegedly asked female librarians their bust size during interviews, an allegation he denied, though he did readily admit to asking them for headshots before hiring them, because, in his words, “You cannot polish a pumpkin.” Gross.

I guess Colin Jost really was right when he said on SNL‘s most recent Weekend Update, “Everyone you’ve ever heard of is a sex monster.”

Paul Holdengräber Gives Good Interview

Paul Holdengräber interviewing RuPaul at the NYPL.

My friends over at Art Papers recently ran an interview with Paul Holdengräber, the New York Public Library’s “Curator of Public Curiosity” and host of the confab series “LIVE from the NYPL.” Here are his thoughts on what makes a good interview, and interviewer:

My goal—as I did with David Lynch, Ed Ruscha, JAY-Z, Zadie Smith, Patti Smith, or Philip Glass—is to represent the audience as best as I can, their interests and curiosities. The question that I’m trying to phrase is—I’m hoping—the question that the audience as a whole, and some people in particular, may have.

Many people have remarked that the conversations they like best are conversations with people who have nearly no similarities with me. When I speak with Mike Tyson or Pete Townshend or Harry Belafonte, what do I know about so many aspects of their world? I try to be the spokesperson of a general interest that perhaps many people might have for that person. I try to create a common humanity.

Read the complete interview over at Art Papers.