Selfies, Foodies, & Other Redundancies

Continuing the theme of “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” here are two cartoons:


Mount Rushmore selfie by Jimmy Margulies (2013)


Alternately labelled as “Before Instagram” or “Before Facebook,” this image posits Paul Cézanne’s work as the precursor to contemporary food pics.

Others have commented on the similarities between historical self-portraits and modern-day #selfies. For example, one tumblrite (tumblr-er?) wrote:

selfie culture

I like these images because they showcase the artificiality and arbitrariness of the boundaries between art, popular culture, self-portraiture, and historical or inherent meanings and values of visual images.

Plus, the four dudes and Cézanne just look ridiculous, which is an important element of caricature (in my not-so-humble opinion).

(Their farcical appearance lends further credence to the cartoonists’ critiques and biting commentary on the preposterousness of the modern condition, with its built-in historical and contemporary redundancies and inanities, someone more pretentious than me might say.)

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NEH: Application for “Mapping Nature Across the Americas”

This is the first of what might wind up being 20 posts summarizing an awesome summer at the Newberry Library for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) seminar “Mapping Nature Across the Americas.”

For curious parties, or future applicants, I’ve included part of my application letter of interest here to give you an idea of some of the research questions that guided my archival work over the course of the program:

Excerpt from Amanda Murphyao’s Mapping Nature Across the Americas National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Application

William Faden

Cartouche by William Faden,
“A map of the Inhabited Part of Canada…,” 1777.

William Faden detail

Detail from cartouche by William Faden,
“A map of the Inhabited Part of Canada…,” 1777.

The beaver features prominently in Harold A. Innis’s seminal text on Canadian political economy, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. In fact, the book opens with a discussion of the mating habits of the beaver, which segues into a discussion of the animal’s suitability as a source of fur for hats. The beaver appears on the cartouches of many historical maps, alongside figures of waterfalls, rocks, trees, and other “natural,” exploitable features of the Canadian environment. Innis argues that the beaver trade dictated European expansion into the North American continent, and the waterways dictated the route that they would follow. Former fur trading posts have become cities on the water with names like Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago.

As a young Chicagoan, I first became aware of the impact that the Indigenous and European fur trade networks had on my home city while on a field trip that involved singing French Canadian voyageur songs with intrepid IMSA history teacher Claiborne Skinner and falling out of a canoe at Starved Rock State Park. Since then, I have learned from Peter Williams—over a delicious meal of seal meat curry—that Alaska Natives may harvest marine mammals for subsistence, and that sea otter fur makes incredibly soft (and expensive) hats.

I offer this brief foray into the history of haberdashery and my nautical misadventures to illustrate questions that are central to my research and teaching: what can practices of adornment—from hats on heads to cartouches on maps—tell us about the commodification of land and resources? How can an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to history and geography transform our understandings of the environmental imperatives underlying North America? What are the implications of ongoing resource exploitation for the future of our society? How can educators support students as they go from learning that “Joliet, Illinois” is an anglo-cized name of a French Canadian and a french-ified name of an Indigenous term, respectively, to studying the federal legislation around marine mammal protection in the contemporary global fur trade? In short, where have we been and where are we going?

Interrogating the construction of nature through maps of environmental history is a fruitful avenue for understanding the world and how people find a place in it. It was delightful to discuss these topics in further depth during the seminar. Some answers, but mostly lots more questions that came up over the course of the summer, will be covered in subsequent posts!


neh app

This post was re-tweeted by the NEH account, so I thought I just wanted to add a small tip to future applicants out there (if paper applications are still required next year!). If you can afford the $6 or so for covers and binding at a copy shop, your finished application will look really polished and professional (and will garner notice from the selection committee! At least in my anecdatal experience.). :-)

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Fifty U.S. States & New Shapes

As the Swipes File more broadly demonstrates, there can be many ways of presenting the same information, as well as different approaches to presenting geographic places (spaces?). Here are some variations on the theme of the United States (reunited as a skull, an alternative UShapia, and a heart):



"States United"

“States United”

As part of research into and thinking about the intersections of cartography, cartoons, caricature, comics, communication, and colonialism (the 6 Cs!), I’ve launched several websites to showcase images of territory that I have collected so far:

- Ushapia (the term for maps of the United States missing Alaska and Hawaii)

Washington, DC

- Florida Carto-Caricatures

- California Carto-Caricatures

Illinois Carto-Caricatures

- Other US states in cartoons, maps, carto-caricatures, and logos

- Canada Carto-Caricatures

- Québec Carto-Caricatures

This collecting process is helping me to think about carto-caricatures and banal colonialism as part of my dissertation and other research projects. If you come across cartographic imagery and you’d like to share, I would be happy to see more!

(My current research focus is on the present-day United States and Canada, but I am interested in the claim-making of cartographic imagery more broadly–dare I say globally?)  :-)

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If you were born in any year that starts with a number, you will be judged

There’s a saying that “three moves is equivalent to a house fire.” (I looked this up, and apparently it has negative connotations in that you will lose or damage as many things by moving thrice as you would by having your house burn down once, but I kind of thought it had positive connotations in that you will clean house as effectively as a fire if you move three times.)

The point is, we’re moving (again!), so I am cleaning out (more!) papers and craft supplies that I acquired from various excursions to my grandma’s house. Most of the stuff I collected from her is weirdly reassuring, like a hilarious e-mail forward from before there was e-mail celebrating being born prior to 1945:



We were born before television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, plastic, contact lenses, Frisbees and the PILL.

We were before radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams, and ballpoint pens. Before pantyhose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip-dry clothes — AND — before man walked on the moon.

Bunnies were small rabbits, designer jeans were scheming girls named Jean, and having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with our cousins.

We thought fast food was what you ate during Lent and Outer Space was the back of the local theater.

We were before house husbands, gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, and commuter marriages. We were before day-care centers, group therapy, and nursing homes. We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, electronic t ypewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yogurt, and guys wearing earrings. For us, time-sharing meant togetherness … not computers or condominiums. A “chip” meant a piece of wood, “hardware” meant nuts and bolts, and “software” wasn’t even a word.

Back then, “Made in Japan” meant junk and “making out” referred to how you did on your exam. Pizzas, McDonald’s, and instant coffees were unheard of.

We hit the scene when there were 5 and 10 cent stores, where you bought things for five and ten cents. The corner drug store sold ice cream cones for a nickel or a dime. For one nickel you could ride a street car, make a phone call, buy a Pepsi or enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards.

You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600 … but who could afford one? A pity, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.

In our day, “grass” was something you mowed, “Coke” was a cold drink, and “pot” was something you cooked in. Rock music was a grandma’s lullaby and AIDS were helpers in the principal’s office.

And we were the last generation that was so dumb as to think you needed a husband to have a baby.

No wonder we are so confused and there is such a generation gap today.

But, WE SURVIVED!!! What better reason to celebrate?

There’s your excerpt of a pretty wacky list (with punctuation modified to fit the 21st century).

And here are some vocabulary words to accompany this post:



What I find most amusing is that such list-making persists into the digital era, as the Beloit College Mindset List demonstrates. (The Wisconsin school has released the list annually since 1998 to provide “a look at the cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities in the fall.”)  Here’s an excerpt from that:

Students heading into their first year of college this year were generally born in 1996. [There are certainly students that this list doesn't apply to who will be graduating in 2018.]

Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Tupac Shakur, JonBenet Ramsey, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim.

For students entering college this fall in the Class of 2018…

1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.

4. When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think Harry Potter, not John Lennon.

5. “Press pound” on the phone is now translated as “hit hashtag.”

6. Celebrity “selfies” are far cooler than autographs.

9. Ralph Nader has always been running for President of the U.S.

11. The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.

12. In their lifetime, a dozen different actors have portrayed Nelson Mandela on the big and small screen.

13. Women have always attended the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel.

15. Pepsi has always refreshed travelers in outer space.

17. Courts have always been overturning bans on same-sex marriages.

20. Citizens have always had a constitutional right to a “dignified and humane death.”

21. Nicotine has always been recognized as an addictive drug requiring FDA oversight.

22. Students have always been able to dance at Baylor.

23. Hello Dolly… cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.

24. Women have always been dribbling, and occasionally dunking, in the WNBA.

28. Parents have always been able to rely on a ratings system to judge violence on TV.

30. There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.

31. The Unabomber has always been behind bars.

32. Female referees have always officiated NBA games.

33. There has always been a national database of sex offenders.

37. Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S.

38. Attending schools outside their neighborhoods, they gather with friends on Skype, not in their local park.

39. While the number of Americans living with HIV has always been going up, American deaths from AIDS have always been going down.

42. “African-American Vernacular English” has always been recognized as a distinct language in Oakland.

45. One route to pregnancy has always been through frozen eggs.

52. U.S. soldiers have always been vaccinated against anthrax.

53. “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.

54. Their collection of U.S. quarters has always celebrated the individual states.

(The missing items are cut because you can just go read the entire list at the original source – plus, some were things that I was embarrassed that I didn’t know despite being born prior to 1996.)

The overlap between the two lists is most salient to me in regards to various medical conditions and treatments (AIDS, vaccines for polio and anthrax), discussions of currency (the value of a nickel or the decor on quarters), civil rights (“gay rights” and “same-sex marriage”), outer space (moon / theater and Pepsi), and pregnancy (with the mentions of husbands and frozen eggs).

And last, but certainly not least, here’s an excerpt from “23 Insanely Mind-Blowing Facts About The Class Of 2018” (via AO’MM <– is that right?!):

20. Their life experiences tend to differ slightly from yours because they were born after you and the world is constantly changing.

22. They are 100 percent polyester.

23. By the time they graduate college, you will be dead.

In conclusion, the more things change… you know the rest!

UPDATE: Found this on Twitter just the other day…


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Swipes #41: Bang Bang

Today’s swipes file is two cityscapes involving guns:

Windsor McCay

Here we have an unnamed city with “Bootleg whisky, crime, dope” by Winsor McCay circa 1920s, via the Library of Congress.

de adder

And here’s “Toronto” by Michael de Adder in The National Post, via Porfoolio 22 (2006, page 50).

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Labo(u)r Day Tidings


Montagu Scott, ‘What Eight Hour Day Means (The Betrothal of Industry and Leisure),’ The Worker (Queensland), 2 January 1904. As seen in “‘All the World Over:’ The Transnational World of Australian Radical and Labour Cartoonists” by Nick Dyrenfurth and Marian Quartly in Drawing the Line.

In “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek),” David Cain tells us:

But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

Rostap - The Great Question - 1904


And from Rostap, “The Great Question” (1904)

Just some variations on a theme today. Happy labo(u)ring!

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San Diego Map-A-Thon

Back in 2012, I went to Comic Con with my good friend HH. While we were there, I casually photographed maps that I came across. In about ten hours of wandering around the city (admittedly in some touristy locations, including a hostel and the convention center), here’s what I found:

This one goes out to AR. PS Where is Newfoundland, I ask you!?

This one goes out to AR. PS Where is Newfoundland, I ask you!?

Balboa Park is rad, and I went there with some rad friends. (Thanks, EC and NT, for the recommendation!)

Balboa Park is rad, and I went there with some rad friends. (Thanks, EC and NT, for the recommendation!)

Admittedly, the UN Village gift shoppe is probably gonna be full of maps...

Admittedly, the UN Village gift shoppe is probably gonna be full of maps…

Gift shop poster.

Gift shop poster.

Gift shop tourist maps.

Gift shop tourist maps.

World map playing cards.

World map playing cards.

Earthopoly? They're just not even trying any more with these names.

Earthopoly? They’re just not even trying any more with these names.

This one seems pretty straight forward.

This one seems pretty straight forward.

Considering how badly these pedagogical games emphasize geography, I have yet to meet someone in the United States who has heard of "Canada."

Considering how badly these pedagogical games emphasize geography, I have yet to meet someone in the United States who has heard of “Canada.”



Convention Center - You Are Here!

Convention Center – You Are Here!

Hostel maps.

Hostel maps.

Hostel decor.

Hostel decor.

Banana Bungalow Hostel - You Are Here!

Banana Bungalow Hostel – You Are Here!

Banana Bungalow in context.

Banana Bungalow in context.

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Swipes #40: Hold on to your politicians

This one seems to actually be a legitimate swipe, but sadly I have completely lost the reference for the second image. I’m pretty sure that I found it in the Library of Congress. If anyone has a better suggestion for the citation, I’d be really glad of the reminder!

John Collins, "Bikini Beach," circa 1965 via the McCord Museum.

John Collins, “Bikini Beach,” circa 1965 via the McCord Museum.

Citation sorely needed! Pretty sure I found this at the Library of Congress in November 2013. Beyond that, I'm at a loss.

Citation sorely needed! Pretty sure I found this at the Library of Congress in November 2013. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.

John Collins seems to enjoy this trope:


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Swipes #39: Great Lakes?

A little bit of bathroom humo(u)r for today’s swipes file:

From Jogfree of Canada, a gift from KB.

From Charlie Farquharson’s Jogfree of Canada (1974), a birthday gift from KB.

"Lake Urine" by Isaac Bikerstaff, from my tour of the Bikerstaff collection at Johns Hopkins in DC.

“Lake Urine” by Isaac Bikerstaff, from my tour of the Bikerstaff collection at Johns Hopkins in DC.

More Great Lakes imagery if you follow the link!



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Things to do / see / eat in Ottawa

A friend asked, so here are some Greatest Hits of Ottawa (According to Amanda) in the form of a partial and evolving list of thing to do / see / eat for future visitors and / or residents and other interested parties:

- Byward Market is touristy, but fun to poke around, especially if you like to eat Beaver Tails or Obama Cookies and drink exciting teas.


- If you are looking for French books to supplement your meagre collection, Librairie Du Soleil is a lovely shop to check out. There are other great independent and / or used book shops in Ottawa, as well as two comic book shops on Bank that may interest the nerd-minded.

- Volunteer at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, or one of the many volunteer agencies in Ottawa. (This is more useful for those of you who may be living in or relocating to the area.)

- Question Period is just delightfully hilarious. The Members of Parliament are constantly trying to find work arounds to the “no swearing” rules and it’s just democracy (in)action, folks.


- Mooney’s Bay has a pirate ship sometimes for no reason that I can ascertain.

- Walking the locks is pretty nice. The canal is beautiful, summer or winter (kayaking or ice skating!).

- The Peace Tower has some pretty nice views of the city, if you are into looking at things. The tour of Parliament is generally delightful for aficionados of Canadian history. Don’t bring scissors, though, because you have to go through a metal detector.

- When someone else is paying, I like to go to Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar on Bank Street.

- The Mayfair Theatre, also on Bank, has a pretty varied assortment of indie films and fun events.

- Performances at the National Arts Centre are excellent, in my experience, and you can get reduced rate Live Rush tickets if you or someone you know is a student. (Students can generally purchase two tickets at the reduced rate.) They have music, theatre, talks, all sorts of great goings ons. There are also other performances around the city – improv, live bands, community theatre productions. Basically haters gonna hate is what I’m saying, but Ottawa has lots going on!

- Ottawa is lousy with museums. Do you like nature? Stamps? Civilization? War? History? Pick any topic you like and check out some of the exhibits all over town. Sometimes there are free days and / or student discounts. The Canadian Museum of Civilization (rename or no rename!) is pretty awesome, architecturally and otherwise.

- Aww, nuts, I was going to recommend Ada’s Diner on Bank Street, but Yelp informs me that it is closed. Instead, I will suggest Kettleman’s for a cheap bagel fix, and Wild Oat Bakery Cafe for a more expensive (but delicious) bagel fix.

- Ottawa is also lousy with shwarma places. I love all of them. Enjoy!

- There is a fancy cupcake shop (or possibly a proliferation of cupcake shops) on Bank, if you are feeling festive.

- Setting aside Tim Hortons for just a moment, Bridgehead is a bit more local / fair-trade / generally more glamourous, and a nice place to hang out.

- The bar I am most familiar with in Ottawa is Mike’s Place at Carleton University, but there are trivia nights and happy hours all over the place.

- Ottawa apparently has a farmer’s market (probably more than one!). I’ve never made it to any, but if you let me know how they are, then I can update accordingly.

- Parc Gatineau Park isn’t too far away (if you have a car! It’s like 2 hours on the bus). It is fun to climb on the ruins at Moorside that William Lyon Mackenzie King collected. (His weirdness benefits future generations of Canadians other other visitors.) Plus, Meech Lake! How historical! (Warning: Explaining Meech Lake to everyone in the car who doesn’t care about Canadian political history might get you left at one of the parking lots along the way.) According to Wikipedia, there’s a nude beach in Gatineau, too! Amazing

- The Black Sheep in Wakefield has concerts. I’ve heard good things about the place, but never made it that far (as I am generally sans car in Ottawa).

- Venus Envy is possibly Not Safe For Grandmas (depending on the grandma), but has lots of interesting talks, books, and activities (among other things).

- Montreal isn’t too far away! ;-) (It’s been said that the best thing about Ottawa is the two-hour train ride to Montreal, but hatters gonna hat.)

haters gonna hate

This list is a bit short because I spend most of my time in Ottawa on campus, crying that Ada’s is closed, walking (check out the annual Jane’s Walks for free guided tours of different neighbourhoods!), or visiting with all my besties that live in Ottawa as we scheme for ways that I can move there and be their neighbour. That being said, I’d welcome additions to this list from other locals and visitors!

More suggestions culled from Ye Olde Facebook Comments:

- Ottawa on Canada Day is amazing. (DM)

- Remembrance Day in Ottawa at the War Memorial is always very emotional. (DM)

- I’ve heard great things about El Camino (tacos!) and people line up everyday before it opens at 5:30pm. (DM)

- The Green Door, vegetarian restaurant on Main Street across from St. Paul’s University, is a make-everything-from-scratch kind of place that is usually packed and not just by vegetarians. The food is local, mainly organic (I think) and the ingredients clearly stated for each item. Wonderful. Food is sold by weight and can be pricey if you insist upon buying the heavier items. (CO/JH)

- The Seminary attached to St. Paul’s takes in roomers, I believe, so you may be able to stay there. (CO/JH)

Disambiguation: Not to be confused with Ottawa in Illinois. “Ottawa” is derived from an Algonquin word meaning “trade,” “traders,” or possibly “trading place.” So that should tell you something about Illinois (a French-ificiation of the name of the Illinois) and Ontario (derived from the Iroquois word for “sparkling water”).

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