Authors@Google: David Malki !

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 01.09.2011

>>Male Presenter: We're really glad that David Malki ! could be here today. Many of us know
him as the creator of Wondermark, which he's devoting his time from a career that involved
editing Hollywood movie trailers, which is something I'm also a big fan of.
We are especially glad to have him here because as many of you know we have a lot of people
working here on Google Books and we make all books available in the hopes that awesome
things like Wondermark will happen for making all these whole things possible. So, David,
thank you very much.
And he's here to talk about "True Stuff From Old Books." Yes, right.
>>David Malki: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks for the invitation. Come on in. My
name is David Malki. I'm a comic strip author. Mark told me you may be familiar with it.
If not, I'll give you a little bit of an overview by virtue of showing you an episode. And I'll
read it to you.
You got a guy on a phone here. He's listening to the phone and it says, "Your call is very
important to us. Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed. For
billing, press one. For sales, press two. For technical support, press pi. If you know
your party's extension, you may dial it in reverse order using your touchtone phone.
To access the company directory, please hold your phone receiver over a stove and watch
the patterns the steam makes when viewed against a dark background. To report a lost or stolen
card, twist the receiver in opposite directions with both hands. Have a resealable glass container
nearby to catch the liquid that emerges from the earpiece.
In a dark, quiet room, press your face against the mouth of the container and tell the liquid
exactly what happened to your card. The vivid memories are best, the good times your card
enabled you to have. Tell it all this and seal it. Let the liquid harden into a gel
in a cool cupboard.
In seven to ten business days, you will receive a pack of seeds. Plant the seeds in the gel
in the shape of a regular hexagon." He's thinking, "Man, these options have changed."
So, comics like this are--. They run on our website twice a week and I make it an interesting
way. I make them out of the pieces of other illustrations, which come from catalogs, magazines,
books, all sorts of things from the Victorian era.
Typically, the 1860s through the 1890s, which was the era when engraving reached a high
art and before photography put all those guys out of jobs. So, they guy on the left here
is made of all these different pieces, different shapes, different chunks, Frankenstein-style
from different images.
It's like playing with Legos. Legos are the crafts of old dead people. Here's another
example. Here's a guy with a little motorized bike. And maybe I want some kind of sailboat
with a propeller on it. Look by the windmill. How about a Sears catalog full of gears and
gizmos and sprockets?
And you take them all apart and put some other things together and now you got this guy.
He is, of course, on the cover of the books you have there, "Dapper Caps and Pedal-Copters."
And making things like this out of other things, I think, is a really constructive process.
And it's really fun. And it's a different way to make comics than most other people's.
So, I'm really happy to accidently stumble across this amazing technique. I'm not the
first to come up it. And I have not been the last. But I'm clearly the best.
I get the images from old books. In this particular case, this was a box that a lady in Nova Scotia
sent me from her library. They otherwise would have been thrown away.
She emailed me and said, "Would you like these?" And I said yes. So, I received the box in
the mail followed by two others in rapid succession. And they're full of these cool old images
and I'll page through them. And I'll look for very interesting things that I can use
to make comics.
But the cool thing is that when I look through these books, I get captivated by the articles
and by the stories. And I end up reading things I never would have encountered before. And
that's what all this stuff I'm gonna show you today is about. It's the stuff that I
found that provides a little window into this period of a hundred years ago.
For example, "The Albany Argus has espoused the beard movement." This article is from
the 1870s. This is his argument. "We have come to the conclusion that the practice of
shaving is alike ridiculous and absurd, and that it violates one of the laws of nature.
Now, our beard was not given us for no purpose; that is evident. It was created for some wise
purpose, and that was to keep the face and throat warm, and thus be conducive to health.
Let us look at a few facts. It has been calculated that if one shaves three times a week, it
grows twenty times as fast as if he did not shave.
Allowing two inches as the annual growth of the beard, it will be seen that a man cuts
off forty inches, or more than a yard of hair a year, and the nutriment which supports this,
and is thus wasted, might have gone to nourish other parts of his body, and render him a
healthy and handsome man."
"Again, allowing twenty minutes to each shaving operation, three times a week, amounts to
one hour a week, 52 hours a year. Supposing a man to shave forty years, we find he has
consumed about three months in the simple act of shaving.
And calculating the expense of each operation at the small sum of six cents, we find it
has cost him 360 dollars"
"In view of these facts, we cannot but regard the practice of shaving as a decidedly barbarous
one, and which ought to be discountenced by the progressive civilization of the age."
This is the sort of thing that shows up in a newspaper back in the 1800s.
Two things I want to point out to you. Number one is "barbarous."
Number two is "discountenance."
The Victorians loved puns. They loved puns. It's ridiculous how much they loved puns.
You see a lot more of this. The pun is the highest form of Victorian humor. The other
cool thing is finding not just strange windows into things like the beard movement, which
was from 1840 to 1900, but inventions that seemed like great ideas but for some reason
never quite caught on.
This is from an issue of Scientific American magazine, Gentilli's glossograph. Any idea
what the glossograph might be for? Any ideas at all?
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: You put your head on the little stirrups on the left right there?
>>David Malki: You put your head in the little stirrups. The thing is about this big.
>>David Malki: So, probably not. But it's a very good guess. Someone said "the tongue."
It's also a very good guess. Let's read about it.
[reads from article]
"An easily managed instrument, shown in Figure One, is provided with delicate levers which
rest upon the different parts of the tongue and lips, and slender wings swing before the
nostrils. The levers of this instrument may be taken in the mouth without any inconvenience."
So, that top graph, you see those arcs? Those are the things that sit in your mouth and
rest on your tongue and lips.
[continues reading]
"On speaking, these levers and the wings move, and their motions are transferred partly in
a mechanical way and partly by electricity to a writing pencil, which marks the single
sound with great precision upon six lines parallel and near to each other on a strip
of paper, which is moved forward by hand or clockwork."
"Upon the utterance of the vowels and consonants, moving one or more parts of the organs of
speech more or less strongly, or upon the air exhaled through the nose, the signs corresponding
to the sounds uttered are recorded and may be read at once."
So, this bottom graph, this seismograph, is the record of how you your lips have moved.
[continues reading]
"Stenography through the use of this apparatus, which the inventor calls a glossograph, becomes,
in a certain measure, the public property of everyone who will undertake the easy and
interesting labor of learning the key of this 'nature's self-writing.' This apparatus may
be used for the recording of public speeches, not by the orator himself, but by one employed
for that purpose, who takes the instrument in his mouth and repeats the speech softly,
for the voice plays no part in bringing out the signs."
So, let me explain this. This device sits in your mouth and someone is up here talking
like I am. And someone else, off to the side, is mouthing the speech and the strip of paper
coming out. And then later this is spooled up and someone, I guess, can read it. It's
a really, though, a very efficient way to record the information.
[continues reading]
"The glossograph has the advantage over stenography as it is practiced now, as it requires no
previous study or practice. It demands no straining of the attention, just say the words
and it does all the work."
Right? Labor-saving device. That's the promise of technology.
[continues reading]
"And consequently causes no weariness. Only the deciphering requires practice. The employment
of an apparatus which will enable us to write four or five times as rapidly as formerly,
especially in an age when so much writing is done as in ours, will not be confined to
the noting down of public speeches, and if the compass of the practical value of this
invention has only been glanced at, it must be perceived that there is a fruitful principle
in it which is capable of great development."
Never caught on. Don't really know why.
But here is another example of the sort of thing that Scientific American will print.
And you'll go from the glossograph to this [snaps finger] in just no time flat one after
the other, the Cornell Owl.
[reads article]
"During the past week, a bittern, a duck, and four owls have been received at the laboratory.
One of the owls is kept alive."
So, something happened to everything else.
[continues reading]
"He has disposed of parts of several fish, a chipmunk, and a live snake two feet long.
The encounter with the snake was quite amusing."
"The owl, on spying him in a glass case, evinced a desire to form a closer acquaintance, and
so the snake was placed on the floor of the laboratory."
This is what I like about these scientists.
He said the snake is in a case. The owl can't get to him. But let's solve that one.
Put them together. Probably take very careful notes.
"The owl with one fell swoop came down upon his snakeship--"
"and in striking his claws into his back, raised his head to his mouth and instantly
smashed it. Then commenced the process of deglutition. The owl proceeded to swallow
the snake's head first, and proceeded badly enough, until, after a minute's struggle,
all was swallowed but two inches of the tail."
“At this point, the owl stopped to take breath, and stood with its eyes slowly blinking,
while the two inches of tail, while still visible, was wiggling vigorously. At last,
summoning of courage, the owl gave a last struggle and the end of the tail disappeared,
still wiggling down his throat."
Scientific American magazine.
There is a real, I think, interesting observation here that we can make in retrospect. And that
is they're very interested in inventions and they're very interested in things that go
in your mouth and record stenography.
But they're also very interested in things that are just weird. And they're like, "We
gotta write this down. We can't let this just vanish. This experience that we all had in
this laboratory, watching this owl eat this snake, someone's writing this down, right?
Let's send it to Scientific American."
Scientific American, to their credit, said, "Awesome."
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: This is YouTube.
>>David Malki: Yeah. This is YouTube of a hundred years ago. Everyone's sitting around
saying, "Did the new issue come in yet?" And then someone reads it like I just did. Here's
another example. This is just the tiniest scrap in a giant newspaper full of all sorts
of other things.
[reads article]
"One of these papers which are very pleasant light reading is--"
And this is actually a review paper of other books and magazines. So, it's basically short,
synopsis, capsule summaries of other things out in the public at that time.
"One of these papers which are very pleasant light reading is General Middleton's paper
in the United Service Magazine, entitled, 'An Old Soldier's Pets.'"
"They were his fellows: a Capuchin monkey, a young kangaroo, a magpie, which saved itself
on one occasion from being worried by a dog by whistling the first three or four parts
of 'Nix my Dolly, pals;' a nilgai, which is something of a horse creature, which he tried
to ride, and which nearly killed him; a couple of mongooses, two young tigers, a couple of
monkeys, an otter, and a small black bear. Most of these animals came to a violent end."
I tried to find the actual paper, "An Old Soldier's Pets," and I could not find it on
Google books, so get on that. But I did find several other newspapers citing how amazing
that thing was.
They're all basically like this. Guys, you gotta read "An Old Soldier's Pets" because
this guy's menagerie is amazing. And here is another example of the heady, adventure-seeking
spirit of the age. Have any of you ever heard of Hiram S Maxim? He was a very famous gunsmith,
electrician, and inventor. He was from the United States.
From Maine, he ended up moving to England and became a British subject. And in the 1890s,
he invented a flying machine. He was one of many people working on flying machines, prior
to the Wright Brothers. And this is a little article from 1893 explaining all about his
flying machine. It was steam-powered. It had a boiler on board.
So, this image is of the machine on the rails, as it appeared in 1893. This is the machine
of 1893 as it would appear in the air. The is the starboard side of the machine after
the accident.
It didn't work as well as he would've thought. But for not the reason you might expect. This
is the really interesting thing. Here's Hiram Maxim himself. And this guy was a curmudgeon.
I found his autobiography on Google Books and it's a delightful read because everything
is "this great invention" and then "the people who hated me for it."
And "this guy wanted to charge me 200 pounds to chop down the trees on my own property.
Meanwhile, I'm inventing a flying machine." And this goes back and forth, back and forth.
It's really fascinating. But here's what he has to say. And this is a paper he wrote for
a research journal.
[reads article]
"At the time I commenced my experiments in aeronautics, it was not generally believed
that it would ever be possible to make a large machine, heavier than the air, that would
lift itself from the earth by dynamic energy generated by the machine itself. It is true
that a great number of experiments had been made with balloons, but these are in no sense
true flying machines."
"Everyone who attempted a solution to the question by machines heavier than the air,
was looked upon in very much the same light as a man who now attempts to construct a perpetual
motion machine."
"Up to within a few years, nearly all experiments in aerial navigation by flying machines have
been made by men not versed in science, and who, for the most part, have been ignorant
of the most rudimentary laws of dynamics. It's only quite recently that scientific engineers
have taken up the question and removed it from the hands of charlatans and mountebanks."
Mountebanks is a word I'd like to bring back.
"A few years ago, many engineers would not have dared to face the ridicule, which they
would be liable to receive if they had asserted that it be possible to make a machine that
would lift itself by mechanical means into the air."
"However, thanks to the admirable work of Professor Langley, Professor Thurston, Mister
Chanute and others, one may now express his opinion freely on the subject and speculate
as to the possibilities of making flying machines, without being relegated to the realm of cranks
and fanatics."
So, this decade of the 1890s was when the science of powered flight was really starting
to come into real, under scientific scrutiny. He, Hiram Maxim, was such an inventor and
so wealthy by this point, that he could build giant machines.
And he had a hanger out there near London where he was building his experiments and
he built multiple propellers to see which would work the most efficiently in the air.
And he is really dedicated to solving this problem. This is a latter-day artist's representation
of what happened on his most successful, and last, flight.
The machine--. And the reason he used the steam boiler was not because he was an idiot,
but because at the time it was the most efficient per pound, horsepower per pound. And he had
a rail that he ran that ship on. And he had another rail balanced above it because he
didn’t' want the thing to go too high and to actually collapse.
He just wanted to learn if he could control it for that six inches. So, the thing went
down the rail and it lifted off, and it hit that top rail. And it broke the top rail because
it had this great up, burst of lift. And it actually snapped the track and it fell over
and it was destroyed.
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #3: So, he made it.
>>David Malki: So he made it. That's the thing. He made it horribly uncontrollably, but he
made it. This is what he says about the accident.
[reads from article]
"I found myself floating in the air with the feeling of being in a boat, but unfortunately,
a piece of the broken plank struck one of the screws, the propellers, and smashed it.
I instantly shut off steam and the machine came to a state of rest on the earth, the
wheels cutting deeply into the ground and leaving no track, thus showing that they had
sunk down vertically and had not run along the ground before settling.
“This was the first time in the history of the world that a flying machine actually
lifted itself and a man into the air."
1893. Now, he goes on to talk about, "The machine was practically the same as the Farman
machine" and so on. "If I had a larger field," the quantity of water was too much.
Here are all the things I can fix. "Shortly after this accident, I received notice from
the landlord that the property had been sold to the London County Council for the purpose
of erecting a very large imbecile asylum. It appears that I had prepared the ground,
so all that was necessary was to erect the buildings."
He never did build his flying machine. And he turned his attentions elsewhere. But he
was so dedicated to bring scientific rigor to this field, that he contributed immeasurably
to the field of the science of aeronautics. He knows how he disparaged ballooning.
That's because they were a bunch of idiots out there with balloons at the time. In his
very excellent report recently made on the progress of aeronautics to the British Aeronautical
Society, Mr. Francis W. Berry says, "It is singular that no one has taken advantage of
an ascertained fact to put the balloon to more pleasurable, has more prolonged use than
has hitherto been attempted."
"After interesting how a boat may be caused travel by the current of the stream by simply
using the pole to push clear of the banks," he adds, "there is every probability that
with a balloon so balanced, a push with a long pole would sent it spinning for 50 feet
or more, and one might traverse a few hundred yards before it neared the earth, and it required
another push."
So, they're talking about taking a balloon, floating it so much so that it's balanced
with the lift versus the weight, just hovering in the air. Then you can just be a gondola,
just pull yourself around. Why not, right?
You can drive a boat with it. "Shortly before undertaking ascension in which he lost his
Donaldson, the well-known aeronaut described to us his experience in just such balloon
sailing." Who is Mr. Donaldson? Mr. Donaldson is Washington Harrison Donaldson. And this
guy was amazing. This guy was the guy you think of when you think "crazy man."
From the 1800s, who goes around doing nonsense. He was a circus performer who decided that
circuses were too sedate for him.
So, what he wanted to do was get into ballooning and do circus acts from a balloon. So, what
he would do was go up in a balloon, cut the basket free, and then be on a trapeze, dangling
from the balloon. And then drift across farmlands doing trapeze acts. And people would look
up and go, "What the hell is that?"
Then they would follow him and when he came down, I guess they would give him money. I'm
not sure.
P.T. Barnum did, eventually, like--. He got his money from people like Barnum and giant
newspapers who were like "Put our logo on your next balloon." And he's like, "Yes, OK.
No problem."
But he was a real pioneer in ballooning. And he had to figure out at every step, when someone
like Barnum came and said, "I wanna build a balloon twice as big as anything else."
Donaldson said, "No problem. I can fly it." And he had no idea how to fly it.
He just had to invent it, but there were mishaps along the way. This was his first flight.
He got the balance wrong and he had to throw out his hat, coat, and boots to make the thing
light enough to take off. This was a later flight.
That's Donaldson at the bottom. And that's a man from the press in the middle. And up
there is, I think, a different reporter. And what happened was a storm kicked up and Donaldson
said, "We gotta bail out. Everyone get by the basket and hang on and then we'll all
jump at the same time.
Well, the guy--. One of the guys didn't hear him properly. And so, Donaldson and this other
guy, Ford, they're dangling and they jump out and the balloon shoots upward because
now it's so much lighter. And this guy is stuck in the basket. He goes another two miles
and eventually has to jump out into a tree. And this was par for the course.
So, this is from--. From this perspective, like that's who this guy is when he says,
"Mr. Donaldson stated as his belief that if ever the time came when people would step
into balloons as readily as they now do into railroad cars, the airship would not sail
above the clouds, but would skim close along the surface of the ground."
You didn't want to get too high 'cause who knows what would happen, right? He doesn't
have a great track record with this thing. He's like, "You can totally fly a balloon,
but just, let's keep it low."
"He gave many reasons for this view, notably increased safety and economies, as balloons
could be made much smaller as they would not require a large amount gas to keep them afloat,
and there is little difficulty in stopping to replenish the supply when exhausted.
“He had found no trouble in balancing the balloon four feet above the ground, and keeping
it accurately at that height for hours."
He's sitting there for hours, four feet above the ground.
"He told us further that he frequently travelled along country roads in this way during calm
weather, using a pole to push himself along when there was no wind, or to guide himself
when being wafted by a breeze."
This is when you start to realize, I don't know if he actually did this, but there's
value in newspaper's thinking you did that because it makes you awesome in their mind.
They're like, "Donaldson? He'll do anything. He's polling a balloon around."
Yet, he didn't actually have to do it to get the article written about him. But maybe he
"As an instance of how exactly a balloon can be balanced, he stated that while thus sailing
over a road, he carelessly dropped overboard about a quarter of a loaf of bread, whereupon
the airship sprang aloft a hundred feet or more."
"We asked him how he avoided wagons and other similar obstacles in his path without discharging
balance and so losing equilibrium. 'Jump over them,' was his answer. 'A good strong push
downwards on my guiding pole has sent me flying over many a tree, in which I had thought I
was sure to be entangled.'"
"This flee-like mode of progression was a favorite mode he had of astonishing Arestics."
That's another phrase I wanna bring back. Astonishing Arestics. So, here's--. Let's
go back to Maxim for just a second. "Experiments of this character" meaning aeronautical experiments
in general, "unless conducted with great care are exceedingly dangerous.
"No make-shift or imperfect apparatus should be employed, but the experimenter should have
the advantage of the most perfect appliances and apparatus that modern civilization can
afford. The necessary plan for conducting experiments in a proper and safe manner is
unfortunately much more expensive than the machine itself."
"If I find that my experiments require more money than I have in my disposal, I feel sure
that some future experimenters are more fortunate will commence where I leave off and so on."
This guy was a consummate scientist to be looked up to by everyone in the sciences.
Meanwhile, Donaldson. The 48th ascension and he made 130 something before he did not come
back from one, was made on May 15th, 1874. "The villagers gathered around him like the
natives did around Columbus, and watched every movement he made.
"After taking a sufficient number of stores, he took his departure amid the cheers and
hurrahs of the crowd. During this trip he engaged in the delightful sport of trailing
the drag-rope." This is the rope that hangs from the balloon so people can grab it and
pull it back down to earth.
"Bushes would be bent over, and rail fences jerked open with a degree of speed not common
for the farmers." So, this balloon is being pushed by the wind. And there's an anchor
on this thing and it's just tearing through everything in its path. "Chickens scampered
for their lives, and sheep would run in every direction."
"As he was passing along he chanced to go over a yard where a man and a woman were engaged
in making apple butter. Donaldson has an eye for business, and concluded he would thicken
the apple butter for them, and at the proper time he poured a lot of sand out of a bag
that went direct into the kettle of apple butter."
"The woman looked up and saw, just then Donaldson gave a few terrible blasts on his bugle and
made some remarks about 'Gabriel and the judgment.'"
This was the other thing he liked to do. He carried a bugle aloft. Another flight, in
which he was flying at night, he started blowing on the trumpet and saying, "Gabriel is here."
And all the lights would go off in all the houses beneath as people start to pray.
"The woman took a tantrum, fell down, and rolled over two or three times and started
for the house on 'all fours,' after the broom and butcher knife. The man, after getting
the sand out of his face and mouth sufficiently to see the cause of all the trouble, drew
back the ladle, and with a clenched fist, he threatened to demolish the 'man and the
"Donaldson was wafted out of sight to the tune of that man's 'chin music' at the rate
of about 'two-forty on the pike.' The trailing and sailing were continued for some time,
and by means of variable currents he traveled over a big portion of Southern and Central
New York."
"After a three hours' ride he landed at Half Way Station, between Auburn and Syracuse,
at least one hundred miles from point of starting direct line. The gas was let out, and the
balloon shipped to Ithaca by way of Geneva. The balloon had to remain at the depot at
Geneva all night, but as that building was consumed by fire on the same night the balloon
was burned up."
This happened all the time. So, you could never tell what was gonna happen, if you had
a delightful day of ruining apple butter, your balloon could be consumed by a fire the
same night. Such was the life of an adventurer in the 1800s. Nothing was taken for granted.
But everyone was consumed with the spirit of adventure. And here is a humorous column
from Scientific American and that some of you may relate to. "How the inventor plagues
his poor wife."
"A facetious chap connected with one of our daily newspapers gives the following amusing
burlesque on the trials of an inventor’s wife: 'It is all very well to talk about working
for the heathen,' said one, as the ladies put up their sewing, 'but I’d like to have
someone tell me what I am to do with my husband.'"
"'What is the matter with him?' asked a sympathetic old lady. 'William is a good man,' continued
the first, waving her glasses in an argumentative way, 'but William will invent. He goes inventing
round from morning till night, and I have no peace or comfort."
"I didn’t object when he invented a fire escape, but I did remonstrate when he wanted
me to crawl out of the window one night last winter to see how it worked. Then he originated
a lock for the door that wouldn’t open from midnight until morning to keep burglars out."
"The first time he tried it he caught his coat-tail in it, and I had to walk around
him with a pan of hot coals all night to keep him from freezing.' 'Well, why didn’t he
take his coat off?' 'Well, I wanted him to, but he stood around till the thing opened
itself, trying to invent some way of unfastening it."
"That’s William’s trouble. He will invent. A little while ago he got up a cabinet bedstead
that would shut and open without handling. It went by clockwork. William got into it,
and up it went. Bless your heart, he stayed in there from Saturday afternoon till Sunday
night, when it flew open and disclosed William with the plans and specifications of a patent
washbowl that would tip over just when it got so full."
"The result was that I lost all my rings and a breastpin down the wastepipe. Then he got
up a crutch for a man that could also be used as an opera-glass. Whenever the man leaned
on it up it went, and when he put it to his eye to find William, it flew out into a crutch
and almost broke the top of his head off."
"Once he invented a rope ladder to be worn as a guard chain and lengthened out with a
spring. He put it around his neck, but the spring got loose and turned it into a ladder
and almost choked him to death. Then he invented a patent boot heel to crack nuts with, but
he mashed his thumb with it and gave it up."
"Why, he has a washtub full of inventions. One of them is a prayer book that always opens
at the right place. We tried it one morning at church, but the wheels and springs made
such a noise that the sexton took William by the collar and told him to leave his fire
engines at home when he came to worship."
"The other day I saw him going up the street with a model of a grain elevator sticking
out of his hip pocket, and he is fixing up an improved shot-tower in our bedroom."
When I read this, it made me think there's something about human nature that doesn't
change over time.
And here's another wonderful example of that. This is Nature. This is the evidence that
not everybody is as excited about progress. If you've never heard, I'm sure you have,
the idea that the kids today, the technological advances we have are--.
We're losing something important about our humanity. My thesis is that we always felt
that way. Always. Even back when, a hundred years ago, when we feel like things may have
been simpler.
[reads article]
"Now, new penalties and distresses persistently and inexorably follow each new invention,
and that which man believes to be for his melioration inevitably bears a satellite of
evil in its train."
"Fresh calamities and new diseases not only come to view, but they are discovered to be
actually produced by the novel appliances which have been regarded as benefits and wonderful
improvements. Household conveniences beget unexpected annoyances, rapid locomotion involves
fatalities, and mechanical contrivances to reduce labor impoverish multitudes while they
benefit the few."
"Indeed, it may be stated as a postulate, on general principles, that the ratio of evil
is a hundred to one of good accomplished by man’s inventions. But man’s progressive
works are not only destroying himself, but they are hastening the destruction of the
Earth, in whose ultimate fate mankind is commonly involved."
"It may well be questioned whether, in view of the startling and unforeseen consequences
of scientific success which have changed the aspect and economy of the entire globe within
the last fifty years, we have not overstepped the moral bounds of science by perverting
the knowledge which Man came into possession of surreptitiously when he ate of the 'forbidden
"When Benjamin Franklin first called down the lightning from the sky he was accursed
by the superstitious or reverential with 'tempting the Almighty.' Now we handle the subtile element,
electricity, as if it were inert matter, and we impress it into our nurseries as a toy
for the children!"
"We tap the bowels of the earth and subject to our domestic use the vapors. We experiment
with the volcano and the geyser, the mysterious medicine spring and the poisoned valley. We
toy with the weirdest phenomena of Nature as if they were familiar spirits."
"We have builded a Tower of Babel at Paris, and we have phonographed the breath of life
so that the dead may speak years after they have departed from the earth." And not like
the glossograph. "For years we have been attempting to make water burn" no idea what he means
there, "perverting the Divine economy to the economy of Man, and reversing the purposes
of the Creator."
"As soon as ever the effort is crowned with success, the destruction of the world is no
longer a question of centuries, but of years. At present our most dangerous pet is electricity:
in the telegraph, the street lamp and the telephone."
"We have introduced electric power into our simplest domestic industries, and we have
woven this most subtle of agents, once active only in the sublimes manifestations of Omnipotence,
like a web about our dwellings, and filled our atmosphere with the filaments of death."
"It is urged that electric lighting is not essential to the public comfort. It is not
a necessity but a luxury. By abolishing it we reduce our danger appreciably. The telegraph
is essential to rapid intercommunication in this age, and will be retained, but its operation
must be subjected to proper safeguards."
"The telephone is the most dangerous of all because it enters into every dwelling. Its
interminable network of wires is a perpetual menace to life and property. In its best performance
it is only a convenience. It was never a necessity. In a multitude of cities its service is unsatisfactory
and is being dispensed with."
Some things do not change. "Already the conservative public has taken the alarm, and it has become
our urgent duty, in the interest of personal safety, think of the children, to clip the
pinions of the winged messenger and draw its claws."
"Measures are in order to undo the mischief as rapidly as possible and to get back to
as safe a condition as we were before."
So, there's always two sides to everything. And I also found people who objected to the
invention of the printing press and the notion of writing, itself.
I think what we do as humans is fear change, not the technology in particular, but simply
things that are different. This is a comic from Punchinello Magazine, which is the New
York version of the great London satirical Punch.
And we've got a lecture there giving a talk. Maybe the talk we just heard. The lady there,
with the ear trumpet. Fellow there in the back kinda snoozing. And here's a guy trying
to take notes up in the front. The lecturer says, "There is a cumulative approximativeness,
so to speak, a period when the recalcitrant corpuscles begins to--."
And the stenographer is thinking, “Confound the fellow! I knew he’d break my pencil
with his infernal jaw-smashers!” Jaw-smashers I would like to bring back.
I'm taking notes. And the humor of this age is really, really interesting to me as well
because it speaks to so much of the national character, but also a sensibility of how to
tell stories that has really changed over time.
For example, here's a little joke that was published in Harper's. "I was perambulating
the piazza of the blank Hotel, in company with the daughter of the landlord. She had
been recounting to me all her father's little successes and reverses in life ever since
he had adopted the profession of a Boniface, and among the latter, that is, the reverses,
the rather prominent and discouraging one of having his 'hostelrie' burned down without
the mitigating circumstance of any insurance upon it.
"I professed a proper amount of sympathy for so great a calamity, and ventured to inquire
whether accident or the torch of the incendiary had wrought such ruin. 'How?' inquired Rustica.
'Was it the work of an incendiary?' I repeated."
"She looked at me with a puzzled air for a moment, and then, ''No,' said she, slowly
shaking her head, 'no; someone set fire to it. I held in by a strong effort; but feeling
that an explosion was imminent, I rushed madly away.' "That’s my favorite part where they
overshoot the punch line by about a sentence and a half.
And this is another one. This is from a little bit later. "A Criticism of the Theatrical
Criticism in this Morning’s Paper."
"The criticism by Sharpley Harpoon, in this morning’s Star, of last night’s performance
of 'Sheets and Pillow-cases,' started off promisingly. For two paragraphs it seemed
that originality had at last come into its own in dramatic criticism.
“Here, finally, you felt, was a dramatic critic whose one idea had not been to get
to bed. Rare knowledge of the theatre was shown in every one of the first two paragraphs.
The critic had actually seen the show. The remaining twenty-six paragraphs were something
else again.
“While there was still in fact, stronger evidence that the critic had seen the show
he was criticizing, there began to appear, in the third paragraph, an unmistakable sleepiness.
The suggestion of 'Sheets and Pillow-cases' was too much for Mr. Harpoon.
“His third paragraph was a stifled 'hum-hum-hum'; his fourth paragraph was a frank yawn. And
at the start of the fifth paragraph it was perfectly obvious that he had used scissors
and paste, for the next sixteen paragraphs were given up entirely to a revelation of
the plot.
“Nobody who read those sixteen paragraphs will care to see the show; they robbed the
story of any interest that it might possibly have. But, it is safe to say, nobody read
them, so the sum total of nightly attendances at 'Sheets and Pillow-cases' will be in no
way affected by Mr. Harpoon’s criticism.
“On the whole, the criticism was much too appreciative, as are all criticisms today.
When shall we have dramatic critics who will condemn ninety-five plays out of a hundred?
It makes little difference which ninety-five. They all need it."
"If dramatic critics will just do that for a while, until the public again has some confidence
in their discretion, they may then increase the number gradually. But even the 'gladdest'
of critics should not be permitted to appreciate more than fifteen plays out of a hundred."
"We should have a criticism censorship to see to that. As for the last eight paragraphs
of Mr. Harpoon’s comments, it was clear that he wrote them standing up, putting on
his hat and coat all the while. He must have been half way out of the office before the
last paragraph was complete."
"When, oh, when, will our dramatic critics quit going home before they write their criticisms?
It almost makes us drowsy to write about Mr. Harpoon’s criticism of 'Sheets and Pillow-cases.'
Even we critics of critics must watch ourselves, or we shall give occasion for the creation
of a new professional group: critics of critics of critics."
"Is it possible that a person may become too smart to criticize anything except criticism,
or criticism of criticism? Perhaps that is why we have so few first-rate first-hand critics
And then, like I said, all kinds of great information for you. Here's a Philadelphia
record almanac with food and drinks for sick people. Beef tea for the sick. You guys will
love this recipe. Take careful notes.
"One pound of lean beef, cut into small pieces." No problem. Got it. "Put into jar without
a drop of water." OK, we can do that. "Cover tightly." Easy. "Set in a pot of cold water."
We got all that stuff here. "Heat gradually to a boil—fine, and continue this steadily
for three or four hours until the meat is like white rags." That's kinda gross. "And
the juice is all drawn out. Season with salt to taste, and when cold, skim. The patient
will often prefer this ice-cold to hot." Sounds disgusting.
The beef tea is one of those nutritive drinks you see all the time in the Victorian era.
This has got so much nutrients in them. This is like toast water.
You want some toast water? Here's how you make it and this is at home. "Carefully remove
the crust from a slice of stale bread. Toast the slice through on both sides, but do not
burn it.
“Break the slice into three or four pieces and put them in a pitcher with a small piece
of orange or lemon peel. Pour on a pint of boiling water, cover up with a napkin, and
when cold, strain off the water for use. It should be freshly made, especially in warm
weather." So, it's not toast. It's just water that toast has been in.
But if that's not hardy enough for you, how about some toast soup? "Take a thin slice
of stale wheat bread and toast until it is brown through and through; but be careful
that you do not burn it." If you burn it, it ruins the toast soup.
"While it is still hot, spread some butter over it, but no more than will strike into
the bread without leaving any on the surface. Now break it into fragments, put the pieces
into a pitcher, and pour on rather more than half a pint of boiling water. A little pepper
and salt improves the taste, so they may be added."
"This drink is usually found very acceptable to sick or delicate persons, and at the same
time is quite nutritious." So, bachelors. What else we got? We got some brandy. Nothing
else, just brandy."
"When brandy is ordered for a sick child, it is meant that a few drops, according to
the age, should be given in water or some sweet milk as often as the condition of the
patient requires it. Unless told to do otherwise, keep it in reserve for the time of the day
when the sufferer appears to exhibit signs of being weaker than usual, and then give
enough to restore it to its average condition in health, trying not to get above that."
"Usually it is more frequently needed in the latter part of the day, or quite early in
the morning, than at other times." Basically, anytime. Milk punch. Milk punch and beef tea
were like the Adam and Eve of Victorian medicinal concoctions. “Pour two tablespoonfuls of
good brandy into six tablespoonfuls of sweet milk, and add two teaspoonfuls of ground loaf
"Grate some nutmeg into it, and the punch is ready for use." Sounds simple, right? "An
adult person can take a tablespoonful of this every two or three hours, but for infants
or children you must remember that one-fourth of it is brandy."
"Milk-punch is much ordered by physicians for people who have low fevers and for those
who are debilitated." Milk punch was so popular back in the Victorian era. I found as many
different recipes for milk punch as I found citations for. This one has the rind of Seville
oranges and lemons.
It uses rum. Typically, it's some sort of citrus zest with rum or brandy in with some
sweet milk or cream. It's really good, right? Mr. Countryhouse takes a milk punch.
I told you how they loved puns, right? So, essentially, any term that exists in the culture
is liable for a treatment like this. This is my favorite image, maybe in the world.
When I first found it, I had no idea what milk punch was.
I thought, "All right. It's a milk punch. Look at that guy."
So I thought, "Man, I guess that's what it's called when a cow kicks you in the gut." That's
a milk punch. All right.
I love this so much, I had to go learn about milk punch. Now, it's a little less special
for me. But still, it holds a special place in my heart. And here's an ad for Chesterfield
cigarettes. "How I Saved a Policeman's life." And it's a little poem if I can read it.
[David Malki clears throat]
"Even the eggs were tired that morning and the coffee didn't fool me one bit.
But when after breakfast my cigarette tasted awful.
It was too much and a grouch started. And walking to work, I swore off smoking
And decided to fire my office boy. But just before I decided to kill a policeman,
A man passed me smoking a cigarette. I must say, the smoke that drifted back did
smell good. I followed him into a store.
He threw down two dimes and said, 'The same.' And so did I.
So, I'm still smoking and still keep that office boy
And let that handsome policeman live. And--"
It's really very small. Yeah.
"That man I followed I'm going to essentially nominate.
That man I followed for President or something. For really, those cigarettes do satisfy."
I like that he was about to kill a policeman.
And this is how you sell cigarettes. I did that in an Obama voice because I could figure
in like, it's got his cadence to it. "It was too much. I swore off smoking, so I decided
to fire my office boy." But not kill a policeman. You could probably not run this ad today.
So, milk punch is my favorite image. "A Bad Boy's First Reader" is my favorite book ever.
Frank Bellew, a character cartoonist. This is a book for children. So, Victorian children's
literature had one thing in common, it tells children to sit down and shut up and not doing
anything of interest at all.
And stay out of their parent's way. That's the unifying field theory of Victorian children's
literature. So, here is a book of virtue, ostensibly. A little novelette book. "A, A
Lad." All right, it's gonna start with A. That's all right. "A lad with a gun. Can the
lad shoot the gun? No, but the gun can shoot the lad, if not careful."
All right. New lesson with kids. "B Boy. Has this boy a new toy hoe? Yes, this boy has
a new toy hoe. Can the boy use his new toy hoe? Oh yes, the boy can use his new toy hoe."
He's smashing things around there.
"C Cove. Here is a nice cove. Is there a boat in the cove? Oh yes, there is a boat in the
cove, and there is a cove in the boat." All right, I'll help you out here. Cove is old-fashioned
slang for a guy. So, this is a pun. This is a pun. It took me a while to get it, but it's
a pun.
"D Dog. A tree, a man, and a dog. The tree gives umbrageous protection to the man. The
man owns the dog, and the dog guards the man. The dog is a noble animal." Look at that dog.
That is not a noble animal. In fact, there is nothing noble about the tree, the man,
or the dog.
"E Egg. See, the boy has an egg. Can the boy suck the egg? Oh no, the boy can not suck
the egg. It is a bad egg." Look at that bad egg. He does not like that egg. So, don't
do that kids. "U Ewe." We're gonna skip forward a little bit.
Maybe not the right message to send. "Here are some ewe lambs. Do ewe lambs play cards?
Oh no, they do not play cards, but they gambol on the green." Right? See? Very clever.
So, this is one of the books where it starts to take a turn. "V Verily." All right, not
the best word maybe for V, but it's a weird word. "Verily, my son, here is a fine large
fish. Do you think he is a trout? No, I think he must be a Smelt, for I smelt him." All
right, good job guys.
"W Where. Where are the figs and the nuts and the plums and the cakes? Did this boy
eat the figs and the nuts and plums and the cakes? Oh yes, the boy did eat the figs and
the nuts and the plums and the cakes!" Look how he regrets eating those figs and nuts
and plums and cakes. Don't do this, kids. You'll feel horrible. "X Xcel."
"Here is a fine boy who wants to excel in his class." They do know how to spell it.
“Does he know his lessons? No, he does not, but he is going over them." This is starting
to be a stretch. "Y Year. See the pig and the dog. The pig cries week! week! week. Should
the pig cry week! week? Oh no, he should not cry week! week, for he is taken by the ear
(year)." That's a real stretch.
All right. So, here we go. Let's get the Z. "Z Zebra."
"Is this a zebra? No,--
it is the ornithorhynchus paradoxus. He is by the stream. Is the ornithorhynchus paradoxus
a species of duck-billed platypus? Oh yes, the ornithorhynchus paradoxus is a species
of duck-billed platypus." I think the book is sending the wrong message.
It was odd. Here's a little more of an ancillary material. "That is right. Kick the pig out
of the house. The pig should be in the sty or in the mud. He must not live in the house."
This is where you get a window into the society of the time. How often is this a concern?
Look at that pig. The pig is not enjoying this, this process at all. "Here is an ass.
Can an ass fly? Oh no, an ass can not fly, but a good many have tried, in a balloon."
"This bad man has been partaking of that tortuous stimulant known as 'crooked whiskey.' Is it
not reprehensible to partake of such potent alcoholic beverages?" I think this is a book
for children.
But I'm starting to wonder if it is. "Behold the wise statesman! He rejoiceth that he stole
the public funds, for he hath ease and oriental luxury. Would you remain in squalid honesty
when by stealing you may become rich and joyful?"
Bitterness peeping through. And finally this. "Here is Isabella perusing a volume. She loves
to peruse, while her imbecile companions waste their time in boisterous amusements. She will
grow up to be a wise woman if she does not die of cerebrospinal meningitis."
Look at that.
For a while I thought I understood the politics of this book, but the [inaudible]. Nobody
is safe. So, Frank Bellew, the author of this book, is a humorist. And so, the possibility
exists that he wrote this book for a satirical purpose.
He may think that it was a practical joke on us.
Well, back to Watkins and Donaldson. The ass in the balloon. This is his final ascension,
139th ascension, 1875. This was an attempt to cross the Atlantic. He had with him two
men, reporters both and there was to be a third, but there was not--. They had to take
too many provisions and there wasn't the ability to carry the fourth man in the balloon.
So, they had to flip a coin. One man got to go and the other man stayed behind. 1875.
"Near five P. M. the 'P. T. Barnum'"--which was the name of the balloon that Barnum had
paid for--" left the Hippodrome, carrying Washington Harrison Donaldson, one of the
world's greatest and best aeronauts, and Newton S. Grimwood, reporter for the Chicago Evening
"The balloon, with its 83 thousand cubic feet of gas, and 800 pounds of sand, and two passengers,"
so it was just Washington and Grimwood, there was a third man that had to stay behind. "Rose
gracefully to an altitude of about five thousand feet, and floated steadily to the northeast,
out over Lake Michigan, and in a direction that would, if followed, take them near Grand
Haven, Michigan, 120 miles distant."
"Thousands of upturned eyes watched the graceful balloon as it moved steadily before the breeze
at a rate of about fifteen miles an hour. At 6:30, one hour and a half from the time
of starting, many eyes were yet fastened upon the balloon, anxious, perhaps, about the descent,
or wishing that a counter-current would send them back."
"Loved ones looked with eager eyes until tears blurred the balloon from their sight, and
as the balloon faded from view darkness enveloped the city, and speculation was already rife,
and anxiety manifested itself in many minds."
"At seven P. M. the 'Little Guide,' standing out some thirty miles from the Illinois shore,
off Grosse Point, and about twelve miles north of Chicago, " this is a boat, "sighted the
balloon, and observing it occasionally dipping the basket in the lake, only a mile and a
half distant."
Trying that poling thing probably. "The ' Little Guide' headed for the balloon, but before
it could overtake the balloon there seemed to be a sudden lightening of the car, and
the air ship shot upward to a great height and soon disappeared from the view of the
crew of the schooner."
So we know why there is occasionally a sudden lightening of the balloon and his body was
found about a month later and Grimwood, the passenger. "This was the last that was ever
seen of the balloon. That night a terrific storm swept down upon the lake, a hurricane
whose volume and fury none can know added terror to the Cimmerian darkness."
"Powerful indeed must be the pen that could describe a midnight hurricane from their standpoint,
the intensity of night made brilliant by the flashes of lightning, the quietude disturbed
by the pealing thunder that would seem to shake the world asunder. The awful position,
that they could scarcely realize no doubt, palsied them with fear.
"Yea, though they were brave, yet when death comes so plain, what heart would not tremble?
Their suffering, their agony, their terror, their heart-rending cries, and their thoughts
of friends and home, none can know. Donaldson, brave, heroic and skilled, no doubt strained
every nerve to protect his passenger, and, like the bold, the noble and true captain,
sank with Grimwood to a watery grave."
Donaldson's body was never found. The New York Times reported he was found in a barn
like a month later, but that's like the Elvis-sighting kind of deal. And that was never verified.
But this is what Donaldson said on an earlier occasion. This is a guy who, remember, made
a point.
He invented the art of trapeze ballooning. "I have noted on different occasions a class
of people who were only half alive and who find fault with my exercise, which to them
looks frightful. Their nervous system is not properly balanced."
"They have too much nerves for their system, which is caused by want of a little moderate
exercise up there where the air is pure, instead of which they spend hours in a place which
they call their office."
"They sit themselves in a dark corner, hidden from the sun's rays, and in one position remain
for hours, inhaling the poisonous air with the room full of carbonic acid gas," carbon
dioxide , "which is as poisonous to man as arsenic is to rats; and in addition to this,
will fill their lungs with tobacco smoke, and to steady their nerves require a stimulation
of perhaps eight or ten brandies a day."
Well, maybe they just weren't feeling well. "If I were as helpless as this class of people,
then my life would be swinging by a thread, and I would wind up with a broken neck." He
preferred the life in the balloon to any safe life on the ground. 1879, Frank Leslie's Popular
"Modern civilization may well be described by the words so generally applied to fire:
'A good servant, but a bad master.' At no previous period have the appliances for easy
and comfortable living been so numerous or so generally distributed among all classes,
and the men of today have much cause for congratulation compared even with those of a generation since."
“Whether for purposes of business or pleasure, the number of man's servants has of late greatly
increased. The telegraph, the telephone, the locomotive and the steamship, the modern printing
press, and thousands of minor devices which add immensely to the sum total of his pleasures,
are all willing servants if properly used."
"But once in control, they become the hardest taskmasters. The telegraph and telephone offer
a ready and useful service at all times, but again, they often become the most rigid fetters,
binding a man's whole life to the office and exchange."
"Steam has increased to an enormous extent the ease and pleasure of traveling, but it
is now too often used as a means for a rapid rush from place to place, with none of the
pleasures which accompany more deliberate travel; and the many other adjuncts are too
generally misapplied as a means for accumulating a little more money or building up a short-lived
fame at the expense of health and true enjoyment."
"Men have come to live fast, rather than well." 1879. A sentiment that is fairly common today,
too. Typical issue of Scientific American looks like this. You have all sorts of things.
There's the official list of patents, everything that was issued in that week. A little blurb
about American inventions and Europe.
You'll get a common sense of what's going on elsewhere in the world. Here's an article
about steam boiler encrustations. A very practical article, so you can make sure your boiler
is functioning at top performance. Here's an article about spontaneous combustion of
the human body.
But to its credit, it is debunking the notion. And right in the middle is this. "The Maddening
Mechanism of Thought," in-between the steam boiler encrustations and list of patents.
This essay by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
"Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The Angel of Life winds them up once for all, then closes
the case, and gives the key into the hand of the Angel of the Resurrection. Tictac!
tic-tac! go the wheels of thought; our will cannot stop them ; they cannot stop themselves
; sleep cannot still them; madness only makes them go faster; death alone can break into
the case, and seizing the ever-swinging pendulum, which we call the heart, silence at last the
clicking of the terrible escapement we have carried so long beneath our wrinkled foreheads.
"If we could only get at them, as we lie on our pillows and count the dead beats of thought
after thought and image after image jarring through the over-tired organ. Will nobody
block those wheels, uncouple that pinion, cut the string that holds these weights, blow
up the infernal machine with gunpowder?"
"What a passion comes over us sometimes for silence and rest, that this dreadful mechanism,
unwinding the endless tapestry of time, embroidered with spectral figures of life and death, could
have but one brief holiday."
"Who can wonder that men swing themselves off from beams in hempen lassos ? That they
jump off from parapets into the swift and gurgling waters beneath ? That they take counsel
of the grim fiend who has but to utter his one peremptory monosyllable, and the restless
machine is shivered as a case that is dashed upon a marble floor?"
"Under that building which we pass every day there are strong dungeons, where neither hook,
nor bar, nor bed cord, nor drinking vessel from which any sharp fragment may be shattered,
shall by any chance be seen. There is nothing for it, when the brain is on fire with the
whirling of its wheels, but to spring against the stone wall and silence them with one crash."
"Ah, they remembered that, the kind city fathers, and the walls are nicely padded, so that one
can take such exercise as he likes without damaging himself. If anybody would really
contrive some kind of a lever that one could thrust in among the works of this horrid automaton
and check them, or alter their rate of going, what would the world give for the discovery?"
"Men are very apt to try and get at the machine by some indirect means or other. They clap
on the brakes by means of opium, or they change the maddening monotony of the rhythm by means
of fermented liquors."
"It is because the brain is locked up and we cannot touch its movements directly, that
we thrust these coarse tools in through any crevice by which they may reach the interior,
alter its rate of going for a while, and at last spoil the machine."
When I talk to people who are interested in the Victorian era and the aesthetic of it,
or their steam pumps or whatever it is, there's a sense of like the good old days when things
were awesome. And I think the much scarier notion is the fact that we have not changed.
And the reason that's scary is because it implies that the things that we suffer from
now are constant. They're part of human nature and we'll always suffer from them. And it's
very difficult to learn how to deal with that because we think, "Oh, if only there's this
new technological advancement, this awesome app is gonna get me organized."
Or, "this new system or this book I'm gonna read or whatever it is." But they felt the
same way a hundred years ago as we feel today. And so, the implication is that we're gonna
feel the same way a hundred years from now, right? There's no way to fix it. There's no
way to make it better.
And that's a tremendously distressing thought. So, I was thinking about this and I'm thinking,
"If this is true, what do we do? What do we do?" And the best solution I can think of--.
I have to share it with you here. Just laugh about it.
Thank you very much.
>>Male Presenter: So, do we have--? Is the room free?
>>FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #4: What day is it? It's Monday. No one's here already. So we
probably have it for a little while.
>>Male Presenter: So, can you hang on for a few minutes for questions?
>>David Malki: Yeah.
>>Male Presenter: If anyone has any questions. And it is 12 o'clock if anyone needs to be
going on to their next place. So, we'll give you five or ten minutes for questions.
>>David Malki: Sure.Yeah.
>>Male Presenter: If anyone else wants to come up afterwards. You have anything to say?
>>David Malki: And if not, it's OK. Don't feel obligated.
If nothing else, I'm happy to sign books, too. Thank you all. Yes.
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #5: So, how do you find all of these cool things? I mean, earlier
you said some people send, like send you right these books.
>>David Malki: Yeah. Well, with the way it started was I think I had one book of clipart
that was commercially done with clipart. And then I realized that I was making comics using
these little engravings. And I'm like, "Well, I could use this clipart, but everyone else
has access to the same book of cliparts."
And so, you see the same images cropping up a lot. So I thought, "Where did the clipart
come from?" And so, luckily the books have introductions and they say this is from such
and such magazine. So, I went to the library in LA and they have a bunch of archives on
And I was able to look up those particular magazines and newspapers that they had cited
and I thought--. Pretty soon, I had a list of really cool images on this microfilm. I'd
write down like, such and such year and such and such title. And then I started looking
for those exact books on eBay.
And I'd get ones that were damaged and didn't have any collector's value because the cover
was missing or it got stained or something or a kid had drawn over half of it. So, get
a sense of the era and the types of titles that might have things that I'd like. And
the collection grew over time.
And then it got to the point where people would start sending me the things after I'd
been doing it for a while. And I would look online for, "Oh, here's Harper's 1879." But
this article is a two-parter. So, what about Harper's 1880? What about that one? So, that's
where Google Books eventually was super helpful.
And a lot of these articles that--. I mean, you saw some of them were scans from physical
paper, but a lot of them were from Google Books as well because I can do research where
I can type in a certain author, like looking up Hiram Maxim. I can see different articles
published about him.
And so that's where, at this point, Google Books has been my whole second library that
I use for compiling extensive information like this. Although, I can't use it to make
the comics because it's all low-res. So, until next week.
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #6: How much time do you spend just paging through actual old books
or magazines?
>>David Malki: Umm. A lot. It's tough because I get really captivated by it. Like, I get
started--. It's hard. You get just into the reading and it's hard to stop. And in fact,
some of the books I got more recently, have been other languages which makes it way easier
because I don't get sucked into it.
But when I'm making the comics, occasionally I will have an idea for a certain figure or
character or pose, and then I have to find something that matches that. And so that's
a matter of looking through everything with an eye for, "I need a doctor. I need something
that looks really like a doctor. Nope, not here."
All right. And if I was just drawing the thing, I could just draw it.
But it's--. So sometimes it's, I have a lot of fun with that. And other times it's dangerous.
It's dangerous when it gets like that. Yeah.
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #7: The book, what was it, the book for bad boys. Do you have
an impression of how that was received at the time? Have you seen reviews of it or anything?
Is that like this?
>>David Malki: I wish I knew more about it. I've seen other people excited nowadays because
they've discovered it. But I don't think it was tremendously widely published. Like, there
are very few copies of it in print still. Like, left in libraries I've discovered.
Although what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna be in DC in a couple months. I'm gonna go to the
Library of Congress and if they have one, I'm gonna scan it. And I'm gonna reprint it
because it's freaking awesome.
But Frank Bellew, who again, he was a humorist. He was a characterist. He was an editorial
cartoonist. So, I get the sense that it was written satirically. But there are other pages,
like I skipped over a bunch of them, but there are others that are written much more straight
like a children's book.
And so, either his humor was not that good and it was not that clever, so it seems like
you know, "I don't get the joke," or he was towing that line between, "Yeah, this is plausibly
a children's book, but I'm gonna slip in this super weird stuff."
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #8: You said there were historical objections to the writing.
>>David Malki: Yeah. Well, Socrates, whom we only know because Plato wrote down his
arguments, objected to writing as a discipline. He thought that when you wrote something down,
you weakened your mind because the only way you can have a legitimate thought is by arguing
it out with somebody.
And when you have something written down, it's only a one-sided argument. So, if you
read something, you're not being taught it. You're simply being told it. You don't have
to puzzle it out with a conversation, like with Socrates himself.
And when you write something, you are necessarily presenting something in a lesser form than
you might be able to do by explaining it to somebody and getting their feedback and tailoring
what you can teach them in a very particular way. And I don't know that he ever quite sees
the import that like--.
There is nothing that persists from generation to generation unless you write something down.
And that's where the irony comes in. We wouldn't even know he objected to writing if Plato
hadn't written it down.
And in the same way, there was a monk who wrote a screed called "In Defense of Scribes"
about how the printing press was going to degrade people's understanding of scripture
because in order to really understand scripture, you really have to spend hours transcribing
And you really get into it. And if you just are reading a printed version of it, it just
glosses past you. And of course, nobody would've known his argument if it hadn't been printed.
And circulated. Yeah.
>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #9: Do you run into lots of interesting people when you're paging
through 1800s magazines and microfilm?
>>David Malki: Well, like physical people in the library?
>>David Malki: Um. The people that are most often in the basement of the library are homeless
people. So, I overhear interesting conversations. Or people say, "You cannot sleep in here.
Get out." And unfortunately, there's not this secret society, at least that I've experienced,
of researchers who are conducting interesting experiments in the archives.
I kinda wish like, it would be great like young adult novel is like, the kids who are
trying to solve the mystery of the old clock by looking at newspapers and stuff. But I
have not found those kids yet.
Anything else? Awesome. Great, guys. Thanks for laughing at my humor.