I Speak to You Through Electrical Language: Traveling Into the Nineteenth Century with the “Nervous Icon”


Tracing the history of an image of the human central nervous system, reproduced in more than 100 texts, above reveals surprising connections between the seemingly disparate topics of printing technology, print piracy, electricity, telegraphy, spirituality, abolition, and that most central of nineteenth century anxieties, masturbation. In its hyper-nakedness, the image warned of the dangerous interconnectedness of the body, where stimulation, or over-stimulation, of any one part would cause damage to the entire system.

A Degenerate in the Classroom: Alfred E. Neuman and the Textbooks He Hid Behind

MAD magazine was a rare treat when I was a young teenager, a little expensive and difficult to acquire on a regular basis, but a standard newsstand pickup ahead of road trips and summer weeks away. At the time, the early 1970s, MAD was hitting its highest circulation numbers. Yet its humor always felt weirdly out of step, recycled, even a bit reactionary. Of course that’s partially why I liked it. It was creepy anthropology, a moist record of the guilty id of my older siblings and younger aunts and uncles, subversive if a little toothless.

The magazine had its culturally relevant bits, like Don Martin’s ononmonpidic explosions and Sergio Aragones’ slapstick marginals, but on balance MAD was weighed down by filler of a sensibility that went out with Eisenhower.

Then there was Alfred E. Neuman.

Biology’s Bomb: Graphing “Explosive” Population Growth in Cold War Textbooks

January 29, 2011 Prior to World War II, America’s protectors thought the country’s innocence could be guarded at its gates. Citizen biologists saw the nation’s border as kind of cartographic diaphragm, not entirely reliable in individual instances, but adequate to the task of containing the pool of potential breeders. But conflict had led to contact,…