Monthly Archives: December 2019

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, and Black Beauty

Rather than a collection of books, here’s a pair of books that enrich each other if read together!

Content Warning: contains depictions of animal abuse. (Yes, especially for Black Beauty. Wait, you don’t remember that? Read the unabridged version, they probably cut all the really harrowing bits to make it more palatable for kids.)

Let’s talk about the changing place of animals in society!

Cover art for Some We Love Some We Hate Some We Eat by Hal Herzog. Bright yellow and aqua.
This 2010 treatment of how cultural factors influence our relationship with animals provides a good overview, and makes for some thought-provoking and informative reading.

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog is built on the premise that animals that live in close association with humanity are framed by human cultures in terms of three broad categories: pets, vermin, and livestock. Different cultures might construct the categories along different lines, or even apply them to individuals rather than entire species, but the book nevertheless seeks to apply this theoretical framework to all of them in order to better understand the place of animals in the human world. Interesting topic, and the first of two books to bookend this discussion.

Complications and Guinea Pigs

While Herzog’s book is certainly valuable, there’s a lot of nuance in current and historical cultures that complicate things, and for that, let’s talk about the very strange ride guinea pigs have had. Today, in the continental USA, we see them as pets, a popular choice for the classroom, or children. Alternatively, they’re the proverbial lab animals, which isn’t quite the same as a pet or livestock, but isn’t vermin, despite the fact that the other major lab animal, rats, are definitely thought of as pests before pets outside an experimental setting. Guinea pigs as a species already occupy a complex place in our society, and it used to be even weirder.

Historically, and currently, in the cultures of the Andes which created the domestic guinea pig, the animal is a highly regarded food source, called cuy in Peru (cuyes, plural). Okay, so I might have to have to ease you into this if you didn’t know already. You know how there’s the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Cattlemen’s Beef Association, dedicated to promoting the use of beef in American kitchens? It’s what’s for dinner. They’ve got beef recipes, and information, and function as a means for beef producers to communicate about the state of the industry, as well as make beef look as good as possible to the public. There’s a similar industry and promotional board in Peru, for guinea pigs, and they have a website, too: Cuy Peru. More than worth a click if you can read Spanish, and even if you can’t. Just brace yourself for whole roasted guinea pig, like we do chicken here. (Scroll almost to the bottom for recipes.) So, pet in one culture and livestock in another, simple, right? No. The guinea pig had a long breakout career in Europe as a status symbol, more akin to a fancy watch, designer purse, or car than a pet or even a purse dog.

At the time the Spanish brought guinea pigs back, European cultures had a very different relationship with animals than we do today, mostly because the framework of morality in general was very different. In this context, it didn’t matter whether animals could think and feel, because morality was about sin, and the God-given order. This is how there were pig trials in the middle ages – a killer pig was acting out of this order, and it was up to human ecclesiastical court systems to put it to rights. (If you’re wondering why a pig would kill someone, the answer is that they’re seriously omnivorous, and are absolutely capable of killing and eating people, especially if the person is unconscious or can’t get up under their own power at the time. That’s why it’s such a big deal in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy falls in the pig pen. At the time, I guess people would have known this. Modern audiences probably don’t have enough experience with farm animals to recognize the danger. Anyway, just go to your search engine of choice and look for “killed and eaten by pigs” for a nicely horrifying roundup of the recent cases.) Animals, in this framework, were there to be used by humanity as we saw fit. This led to a huge amount of horrible animal abuse, society-wide and often formalized. I’m not talking about bullfighting alone, either, more like bull-baiting, bear-baiting, rat-baiting, anything-baiting, organized fights between basically any animal that will fight, goose pulling, cock throwing, and fox tossing, just to list a few.

Old engraving of fox tossing in Dresden.
Fox tossing. Foxes were released in a closed area and popped in the air when they ran across a blanket until they died. Note guys lining up the dead animals on the right. Looks like piglets were also killed at this particular event.

I chose the fox tossing example above, because this is the time period that saw the rise of the guinea pig in European culture. Arriving from South America with the silver galleons, guinea pigs acquired an association with this trade, and the power and wealth that came from it. Guinea pigs featured in portraits to underline elite status, and guinea pigs also played a starring role in still life paintings, whose purpose was often a visual treatise on the dominance of the expanding European trade empires. Here’s some weird European guinea pig art.

Three frilly English children from the Elizabethan age, with guinea pig and nearly dead songbird.
This image nicely encapsulates the attitude toward animals in European society at the time. The guinea pig is front and center, and held gently because it’s expensive, but the songbird is casually getting crushed in the hand of the child on the right, because it’s not seen as a pet, it’s a toy. Images like this complicate the pet/pest/livestock framework. This image is possibly the earliest portrait with a guinea pig in it.

Britain and Horses

Eventually, though, there was a major shift in the calculus of European morality, a key part of which was an equally major re-evaluation of the way in which animals were treated. Beginning in the late 1600’s, and concluding in the mid 1800’s, new measures of morals emerged, focusing on the idea of avoiding doing harm and being compassionate. It was believed that compassion shown to animals mirrored a person’s capacity for compassion to their fellow human beings, and so kindness became a new standard of behavior. The series of prints by Hogarth, The Stages of Cruelty, presents a moral along these new lines, just as the idea began to get popular traction, and here’s a link to the Tate Museum’s online exhibit on the print series so you can examine it in further detail. In a nutshell, the inevitable end result of animal cruelty is that it becomes cruelty to humans, which ends in the murderer’s corpse getting dissected by surgeons in public, as was the practice at the time.

Protip: if you have to propagandize about morals, they’re new and need to be taught.

Although modern ideas of the right way to treat animals come from the Enlightenment and Victorian Sentimentalism, a much more similar place than the earlier medieval framework, there are some key differences. Emerging nationalism also played a vital role, and in the case of Britain, the way in which people should treat horses in particular became a defining cultural touchpoint that persists to this day. In case you were curious, here’s a retrospective on the Great Horsemeat Contamination Scandal of 2013. The book that in large part forged this identity was Black Beauty.

Fancy embroidery cover art for Black Beauty.
You might have read it as a child, but come back to it as an adult, knowing how it changed English speaking society. It’s well worth it. Get an unabridged version for grownups, like this one.

Black Beauty follows the life of the eponymous horse through a series of thoughtless and cruel masters, highlighting the way in which horses were used and abused, and advocating for better treatment by tugging at the readers’ heartstrings rather than laying out a rational argument, in contrast to Hogarth.

Ultimately, filtering down to us from Hogarth’s time, and Anna Sewell‘s, our own cultural sorting scheme for animals settles into the categories outlined by Hal Herzog in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat. It has only been two and a half centuries, yet we take this understanding for granted.

Available in book, downloadable ebook and audiobook formats.

— Article by Katherine, Shawnee

Top 10 Graphics of 2019

Here are some of my favorite comics read in 2019. They may or may not have been published this year. Also, a few have more than one volume and I have not designated a particular volume if I would recommend the whole series.

My picks are listed in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.

The American Way by John Ridley and Georges Jeanty

Superheroes working for the government, a government that helps script their battles and other appearances in order to stoke patriotic pride, have been doing this for years. But now it’s the early 1960’s and change is in the air. What the country needs is a new hero, dubbed the New American by his government handlers, but little do they anticipate the chaos he will bring in his wake.

Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose

The blurb on the cover says it all, “Tales of Fear and Food from Around the World.” Bourdain, Rose, and a host of guest artists gather to bring us Japanese folk-inflected ghost stories, all told one an eerie night at the table of an eccentric nobleman.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

A deeply-moving meta-narrative about a singular artistic talent from Singapore. The tale begins in the aftermath of World War II and follows the titular artist to his later years in the 1980’s. If you are a lifelong fan of comics, you’ll be astounded by the homages to comic history, and if you are not, it’s still a great look at the life of an artist in his times. History buffs and political nerds will especially enjoy his exposition on the rise of modern Malaysia.

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston

A tale of the other side of some great cosmic event involving superheroes. What happens to these characters if they are whisked away in the blink of an eye? Where do they go? What if it’s to a seemingly perfect example of small-town America and they can’t escape?

Eternity Girl by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew

Caroline Sharp, spy, and superheroine, finds herself reincarnated as Eternity Girl but all she longs for is meaning in a meaningless world. Or death. Which will she choose? How will it affect the world at large?

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

Abused son of a god turned escape artist has to face his greatest trick, escaping death itself. But can he live with himself while he tries? Poignant domestic drama highlights the emotional impact that constant abuse can have on a person, their work, and their family.

Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution by Youssef Daoudi

The title says it all…but doesn’t tell you how great the art and the pacing are in this tale for die-hard music-lovers and acolytes alike. You will be able to almost hear the music as you turn pages. Better yet, check out some Thelonious Monk from the library so you can listen along!

Petrograd by Philip Gelatt and Tyler Crook

A historical drama centering on the British S.I.S. office in Russia during the First World War. In this tale, the station participates (imagined? real?) in the murder of Rasputin, called the “Mad Monk,” a powerful adviser to Tsarina Alexandra. The art is brisk as befits a spy story.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

A heartbreaking autobiography from George Takei about his family’s experience in the American prison camps of WWII. Thousands of Japanese-Americans and legal immigrants of Japanese descent were torn from their homes and sent far away from their livelihoods and their communities for years. It also looks at how those experiences colored Mr. Takei’s youth and his life-long commitment to civil rights.

Young Frances by Hartley Lin

This is the collected edition of Mr. Lin’s irregularly published indie comic, Pope Hats, issues 1-5. It centers on a brilliant young law clerk with low self-esteem and her wacky, successful actor friend. The art is of the ligne claire style (think Tintin) so there’s no confusion as to how the story unfolds. However, you will be surprised how much emotion can be wrung from such simplicity.

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system.

After taking a look, if your selection is not available at the branch you wish to go to, you may have the item shipped there by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 7:00 PM.

The next meeting is Monday, January 13, 2019. In honor of Korean-American Day (held every year on January 13th), we will be taking a look at Korean-American Comic Creators.

For more information, contact Tony at (502) 574-1611.

— Article by Tony, Main Library

Katherine’s Bookshelf – Etiquette by Emily Post

Dark blue with gold lettering Etiquette by Emily Post.
I love books on etiquette. I have a few, but this is the one I wanted to share. More could well be on their way.

This is the grand dame of the bookshelf, an early-ish edition of Etiquette by Emily Post. When it comes to the bookshelf collection, I don’t really care whether I get a first edition. But I do like my etiquette books to be from a range of dates, and this one, whose publication history to this point spanned almost the entire 1920’s, shows just how much American society was changing. Take a close look at that list of editions!

The editions of Etiquette by Emily Post, up to the publication of this particular copy. Lots of them.
The editions of Etiquette by Emily Post, up to the publication of this particular batch in 1929. Lots of them. I love appendices, end pages, indices, endnotes, and so on. I hardcore judge history books by how fat their endnotes are.

End pages and such are anything but boring. Read closely: the use of the word “edition” indicates that the book was altered and edited for the print run. If it was just being reprinted to meet explosive demand for the book, they would be labeled “printings” instead – as you can see after the publication of the New and Enlarged Edition in 1927. So, something was actually being changed in the content of the book, continuously, from July 1922 through November 1927. There are five editions in 1923 alone. I would hope that the core content of the book was ready for publication with its first edition, but this is a huge number of subsequent tweakings, and I would wager that they weren’t all simply fixing typos. Given that it’s an etiquette book, it looks like it’s being edited to keep up with the changing expectations of society.

Polite behavior is, as nearly every etiquette manual points out, a matter of being considerate and compassionate. That doesn’t change. What does change is whether you’re expected to know what an ice cream knife is for, and if visiting cards are necessary, or if you must be able to play bridge and golf in order to survive in business. These details can change very quickly.

Super fancy 19th Century ice cream knife. Solid silver.
This is an ice cream knife, 19th Century. Until the ice cream scoop, they used big ol’ knives with a ledge on the end to cut ice cream and serve it. The ledge is to keep the ice cream from slipping off the broad face of the knife. Weirdly specialized silverware was very common 100 years ago, and although asparagus tongs are pretty much extinct, along with sugar snips, and critically endangered cake breakers, you might still run into fish forks and knives in the wild, at a very, very formal dinner.

We don’t use ice cream knives, and bridge is no longer so vital to building business and social connections. Dining has become steadily less and less formal, too. However, the fancier the occasion, the more it might conserve practices of a century ago. If you find yourself faced with the prospect of a twelve-course dinner, Emily Post has you covered.

very formal place setting anticipating lots of seafood before the main course.
Don’t panic. You can use the table setting to anticipate what will be served, if you neglected to read the menu. Caviar (tiny mother of pearl spoon on extreme right), escargot (rightmost fork resting in spoon, the tongs to hold the snail shells arrive with the snails), seafood cocktail (leftmost two-pronged fork), soup (round spoon on right), fish (broad fork second to left and broad rightmost knife), lobster (lobster pick third from left), salad (fork, second knife from right), main course presumably steak (tall fork fourth from right and steak knife), dessert (three tined fork closest to plate and knife closest to plate).

— Article by Katherine, Shawnee

Katherine’s Bookshelf – The American Woman’s Encyclopedia of Home Decorating by Helen Koue

The title of the book on the spine in gilt letters.
The cover isn’t very exciting. It’s green. That’s it.

This book from Katherine’s Bookshelf is, exactly as the title suggests, an encyclopedia of interior design… from 1947. Hmm. So, what were fashionable home interiors like in 1947? Let’s see:

What's rose and green and colonial all over? This living room.
If that sofa pattern qualifies as “a soft plaid”, I don’t think I can handle a bold plaid.

Having flashbacks to grandma’s house yet? In 1947, Colonial is in. Nothing says 18th Century Colonial like a giant plaid sofa. Also: ashtrays, ashtrays everywhere. There’s an ashtray on every single table and end table in this picture. I like the rug though. I can definitely appreciate a nice hooked rug. It’s huge. All you need to make a hooked rug is a small crochet hook, some burlap, yarn, and time – lots and lots of time.

Chartreuse walls and some kinda weird painted window border instead of moulding.
Baffling as it is now, the paint job here must have taken ages. Even with a stencil, this represents a monumental undertaking. Look at the figures on the closet door! Also, I can’t figure out how the window curtain works here. There’s no blind, so I guess sunlight just blasts through it. There must be a rail on the bottom too so that the whole thing can be pulled aside? I don’t know.

Basically, the entire book is exactly like this, which points up the problems with many interior decorating and home improvement books. If it’s incredibly fashionable, it’ll go out of fashion eventually. On-trend rapidly mutates into dated, exactly because it’s so evocative of the time period in which it was popular. Warm gray wall paint and white tile are headed that way very soon.

Another interesting aspect is that it’s fundamentally aspirational. Nobody buys a book on home improvement if their home is already improved. You don’t need advice for painting if you’ve already painted. Everything in this book is about how things should be, but aren’t yet. In the same sense that the styles shown within might be evocative of grandma’s house, few people in 1947 actually had houses that already looked like this. Like us, they made do with hand-me-down furniture and their walls were already painted. Not everyone was moving into new houses in Levittown. Some people had apartments, and some people had 1920s Cape Cod houses, or Victorian era townhomes, or shotgun houses. It’s important to read books like The American Woman’s Encyclopedia of Home Decorating to remind ourselves that the actual Mid-Century as it was actually lived in wasn’t entirely Mid-Century Modern. For every hilarious Uranium Red Fiestaware plate, there’s a whole lot of very bland porcelain teacups. Cultural memory is highly selective, filtering through only the most novel and iconic designs. The past as we remember it is not the past as it was lived.

— Article by Katherine, Shawnee