Archive | April, 2012


Friday Fun: Pig 05049

The incredible reach of the contemporary slaughterhouse: Over three years, Dutch Designer Christien Meindertsma tracked down all the products made from a single pig and documented them in her book Pig 05049. In this TED talk, she describes how “pig parts make the world turn.” The below illustration (via makes a similar point with […]


Warts and All

The ugliest part of the novels and nonfiction masterworks of the early 20th century are not, in the end, what they describe – all kinds of human cruelty, crushing poverty, corruption and violence – but their authors’ limitations, the muck they failed to rake from their minds. In 1906, just five years after the publication […]


The Century of the Self

Ever wonder about the origin of public relations? A friend recommended this provocative 2002 documentary by modern muckraker and BBC blogger Adam Curtis. Available in full on YouTube, the four-part film traces the rise of this alternate Freudian “climate of opinion.” Watch Part One above.


Assassinating Upton Sinclair

The real Upton Sinclair spent a long life refusing to abandon improbable dreams, whereas his fictional counterpart, as vividly imagined by author Chris Bachelder, also refuses to stay dead. In Bachelder’s U.S.!, a 2006 novel-as-collection of stories, songs, letters, interviews and memos – not to forget one hilarious, impossible course syllabus – Sinclair dies violently […]

Lard Ad

Friday Fun: Who Killed Lard?

On a recent Friday, Planet Money‘s Robert Smith and Zoe Chace fingered Upton Sinclair as no less than a cold-blooded (vegetarian) killer. His victim? Lard. The context: The meatpacking industry was huge at the turn of the century. Think Chicago. Think slaughterhouses. And they marketed the hell out of lard. It was in every household […]


18 April 1906: San Francisco Earthquake

Two cameramen captured an ordinary day on Market Street just four days before the Great Earthquake and the (seventh) Great Fire destroyed San Francisco, killing thousands: Another video juxtaposes the same scene with footage taken after the earthquake: From the uploader’s page: Here is a side-by-side comparison of two filmed journeys down Market Street shot […]

Original Corn Flakes

1906: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

It’s difficult to understand Upton Sinclair’s character without dipping into the 20th century history of cereal. And it’s impossible to tell the story of two brothers’ accidental invention of what would be marketed as corn flakes in 1906 without also talking about God and sex. John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg were two of a […]

Missing Words

Nine Words…and Six More

A couple of months ago, Cracked magazine ran a piece lamenting the “grievous holes” in the English language and suggesting nine foreign words that might go some way to fill in the gaps. What an appealing selection, even if the list fails to include any Arabic. I’ve taken the liberty of choosing a few of […]


Life in Brief: Upton Sinclair

20 Sept. 1878: Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. born in Baltimore, Maryland to a troubled family 1892:                  … earns $25 when a magazine accepts his first short story for publication 1893:                  … enrolls at the City College at just fourteen years of age 1900:                  … completes his first novel in log cabin near Lake Massawippi, marries Meta Fuller 1901:                  … […]