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I'm an enthusiastic subscriber to The Week magazine, in part because it fills the void left by my newspaper subscription going digital. (Maybe I just need something to do with my hands while I read.)

Each week, The Week showcases an assortment of recently released books, and this past week their top recommendation went to Eve:

As it happens, there's a copy of Eve sitting on the table in my den right now. That's because Cat Bohannon is the daughter of my childhood piano teacher who moved back to New York state but still calls my mom to brag about her kids' accomplishments. (Hi, Rosemary!)

I haven't seen or spoken to Cat in many, many years, probably not since the last time I touched a piano keyboard. But it's still a kind of vicarious thrill to know that someone I once chased around a willow tree is a Big Deal now.

By the way, Rosemary is justified in her bragging. Cat's older brother is science journalist John, who has his own Wikipedia page (but I'll always think of him as the guy who teased me with prank phone calls in elementary school).

Meanwhile, I'm sitting in a basement reading old news and typing blog posts. Maybe I should have spent more time practicing the piano. Sorry, Mom.

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I recently came into possession of some reproductions of lithographic editorial cartoons by Joseph Keppler from his portfolio A Selection of Cartoons from Puck by Joseph Keppler (1877-1892). (Book names were a little more more on-the-nose back then.) The art and craftsmanship of editorial cartoons has changed significantly in the century-plus since the heyday of Puck magazine, and not for the better. It's enlightening to compare how modern audiences would interpret Keppler's work compared to his Gilded Age peers.

At first glance, what do you see in this cartoon original published on August 28, 1889? Is this homeless tiger in rags demonstrating that Obamacare will drive the once proud from house and home? Or maybe it's a commentary on the Occupy movement that hid its "fierce" intentions under a cloak of "peace"?

To Keppler, who was quite adept at drawing silly looking animals other than elephants and donkeys (though he drew those, too), the cartoon above was a criticism of how New York City's infamously corrupt Tammany Hall political machine -- iconized as a tiger by America's greatest editorial cartoonist, Thomas Nast -- disguised its political ambitions on the Mayor's office with fake piety by aligning itself with the Catholic Church. These days if political cartoonists draw Catholic Church references, it's almost always a pedophilia joke. That's not an improvement, Pope.

On December 7, 1887, fifty-four years before Pearl Harbor, this cartoon dragon wearing the dress of "surplus" challenges the do-nothing United States Congress to settle the hot-button issue of post-Civil War Protectionist tariffs on imported goods that had resulted in stagnating trade and a staggering fiscal surplus. At least that's what the cartoon would have meant to its contemporary audiences. However, modern audiences will simply see a do-nothing Congress scared to inaction by an imaginary beast: government fiscal surplus. These days, it's sadly easier to believe that a giant dragon will appear in the Capitol Building than to believe that the government will ever run a surplus again.

This is my favorite of the bunch. The seductive tentacles of the octopus of "gambling" find their way to entrapping ordinary citizens across the social spectrum on May 28, 1890. To the contemporary eye of nineteenth century readers, it was a cautionary tale about the entangling menace of gambling. To the modern eye, it's still a cautionary tale about the entangling menace of gambling. Good art may come and go, but some things just don't change.

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To be continued...


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