Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things I Learned from Cartoons

So I've been reading the strange, strangely amusing webcomic Achewood recently. It's pretty much the definition of an acquired taste, and one which I'm still in the process of acquiring. I was skeptical of it at first, but this strip, in which a character named Charley has travelled back in time (yeah, I'm not entirely clear on that point either) and nearly causes a riot by introducing the nacho, made me a believer. What can I say? I'm a sucker for people who talk old-timey and go into an exaggerated panic at the sight of anything unfamiliar.

Except it turns out that such a panic may not be that exaggerated. Soon after reading the strip, I learned that mass hysteria gripped London in 1797 after a man walked outside wearing a top hat. John Hetherington was arrested and charged with:
“appearing on the public highway wearing upon his head a tall structure having a shining lustre and calculated to frighten timid people.” According to contemporary reports, people booed, dogs barked, women fainted, and a small boy suffered a broken arm after a crowd formed around the hapless Mr. Hetherington.
The fiendish culprit was fined and top hats were banned in the city for a half-century afterwards. Seriously, there is nothing I don't love about this story. The writers at The Onion can only dream of writing archaic police blotters that are so amusing.

In other cartoon news, fans of Futurama will recall that Philip J. Fry is a proud dropout of Coney Island College (Go Whitefish!). But did you know that 100 years ago, there actually was a Coney Island College? Actually, it wasn't a real college so much as a clever way for an amusement park to get around blue laws by calling itself an educational institution and having its workers dress in caps and gowns.

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