Vanity Fair

"Some there are, and very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was to combat and expose such as those, no doubt, that Laughter was made." - Thackery

I can't believe I never read Thackery's VANITY FAIR before. But the cover design for the Back Row Hooligans album was one of his drawings (I didn't even know he also drew), so I thought I'd pick a copy up. As a satirist myself, it's always good to see what the satirists of yesteryear were up to.

A while ago I was doing a Smart Aleck's Guide presentation and someone asked if I was shocked that some people get all their news from The Daily Show.

If I'm shocked at all, it's that anyone can actually go an entire day and only get twenty-two minutes worth of the news. But historically, it seems like as good a place as any.

I spend a LOT of time reading archival news sources - old magazines, old newspapers, etc. It's always interesting to measure what they thought THEN with what we know NOW, to see which papers seemed to be able to see through the phonies, had a sense of what the impact of some legislation or another would be, etc.

Without question, the most astute publication from the last half century, the one that had the best sense of what was going on and what was going to happen, was MAD magazine. Reading back through some 60s issues today is just shocking. THey were WAY ahead of the curve, and many of their 90s issues about the impact of the Republican takeover that Newt led were dead-on. Of COURSE people get their news from The Daily Show - the court jester is so often the one guy who can safely tell it like it is.

Incidentally, I lived one district over from Newt during much of his time as speaker (before he had to resign in disgrace). I think he's a creative guy who isn't afraid to seem smart (a serious rarity in the GOP's field of candidates), but he simply doesn't have the judgement to determine when one of his ideas is a really, really bad one. As an Obama voter myself, I would be happy to see Obama run against him, but there's no WAY he'll get through two or three more months of campaigning without doing something stupid to embarrass himself. His early campaigning (especially his essay of stoking fears about the 9/11 mosque) was just wretched - as a historian himself, he should REALLY know that history is seldom kind to people who build their careers on people's basest fears and prejudices.

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Adam's New Book: Sept 2013