Sherlock Holmes is Unexpectedly Progressive on Interracial Marriage

One of my favorite things about owning a Kindle has been the freedom it gives me to take various Very Old Books from Project Gutenberg or Google Books and carry them around with me. Instead of raising my class level, this has mostly been a way for me to discover very strange vintage erotica (terms for genitalia from an era other than your own are inevitably hilarious) and read pulp fiction.

In attempt to class myself up, I recently pulled The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes off of Project Gutenberg so that I’d have something to read during the break. In it, I discovered a Holmes story with which I was completely unfamiliar: “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.”

In it, a distraught husband comes to Holmes trying to find out why his wife has been hanging out at the next door cottage at 3 in the morning and then not telling him about it. (This is acknowledged by pretty much everyone as a valid cause for worry.) Holmes thinks that she’s hiding her lunatic first husband from Atlanta upstairs, Jane Eyre style. Happily for everyone, Holmes is wrong on pretty much every count.

Instead, it turns out that while hanging out in Hotlanta, the woman married a black man and had a child with him. The person hiding in the attic is the woman’s mixed-race daughter. Understandably, she thinks that having a secret mixed-race kid might not go over super well with him, given that it’s Victorian England and these things are Frowned Upon. What happens next is d’aw worthy.

“…when [Munro’s] answer came it was one of which I love to think. He lifted the little child, kissed her, and then, still carrying her, he held his other hand out to his wife and turned towards the door.”

The story is kind of crazy on multiple levels: the husband basically seems to adopt the kid, the woman’s interracial marriage is treated as not particularly troublesome outside of what other people think of it, and Watson (with whom the reader is presumably supposed to identify) is happy to see that the family winds up all together. That is some progressive short storying!

The story isn’t perfect, of course—the fact that the woman’s first husband is African American is seen as detracting from his otherwise intelligent-looking features, and the daughter is darker skinned than her father because (according to the characters) that’s what happens in mixed-race kids. So, not great! But given that a) positive views of mixed race marriage/kids are rare in literature, particularly of the classic sort and b) it was Victorian England, I’m going to give them a pass?

I do not understand why this is not taught in high school English classes when kids are doing books like Huck Finn (or whatever other book the teacher picks as the Race Book). It’s an unexpected view of race given the time period, and raises uncomfortable questions about how our own time period looks at race in fiction and in personal relationships.

Winning Friends and Influencing People: College Cause Edition

College is a time for people to get really involved in something they’re passionate about, whether it’s a Free Tibet, vegetarianism, their college political party of choice, or something else entirely. However, what starts out as a well-intentioned passion for social change can quickly take a nosedive into the realm of irritating (and alienating) everyone around you. Here are some tips to prevent that from happening and, hopefully, encourage others to listen to you.

Don’t get confrontational: This is the particular problem of newly-converted vegetarians (especially if they came to it via PETA). There is nothing wrong with not eating meat (or only buying fair trade, or campaigning for a candidate), but there is something wrong with being rude to people who disagree with you. If, to use the vegetarian example, you rag on your friends every time they sit down with a dining hall steak, they will grow to hate you. However, if they simply begin to notice that you don’t eat meat and ask about it, it can be the opening for a great conversation about why you’ve made the switch. You don’t want your defining feature to be your cause, because that alienates people who don’t initially agree with you. You want to be “Tim, my lab partner who uses Linux and doesn’t eat meat,” and not, “Tim, that asshole who glares at me when I grab a burger.” There’s a difference.

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HackCollege Reading List: Concerning the Soul

“Yes, then you remember that once a professor said something like this to you, that the world was suffering from materialism and intellectualism. He was quite right, but he cannot be your physician any more than he can be his own. With him intelligence goes on discoursing to the point of self-annihilation. He will perish.”

— “Concerning the Soul,” Hermann Hesse

The essay that that quote comes from (which a kind person has scanned, along with a variety of other excellent books, here) was sent to me this morning by a friend. It urges honesty in communication and, when speaking, true expression of feelings. If you’re excited, it seems to say, share that with people.

Read the rest at HackCollege.

Canada trip!

I just got back from my first trip to Canada, spent primarily in Vancouver and with stops in Whistler and Victoria. The people lived up to their reputation for slightly insane politeness to a degree that was truly astounding; that, combined with the (for the Canadians) unseasonably warm weather made it a lovely trip.

We started off the trip by flying from Atlanta to Seattle. Starving, we grabbed lunch at a Seattle Jack-in-the-Box that happened to be in Seattle’s equivalent of Memorial Avenue. There was a drug rehab place nearby and a woman cheerfully waved at someone she called Candyman. Candyman was 6’5” and looked like he’d seen better days. In addition, the restaurant itself managed to have the strangest menu I’ve ever seen: teriyaki bowls were side-by-side with hamburgers, with funnel cakes for dessert. However, we did manage to get food (after a 4 1/2 hour flight, we didn’t care what it was) and wend our way into Vancouver. At an otherwise unimpressive dinner, I got to drink my first legal beer (Vancouver has a drinking age of 19) and hit up the Lush, so I was happy.

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Dear polos: I hate you.

Dear polos: I hate you.

Yes, you, you polyblend summer uniform sonsofabitch. In your men’s incarnation you are baggy and, somehow, despite that fact you still manage to make me twenty pounds heavier. How? I don’t know! If I did, I’d sell the technology to some Russians wanting to shame their enemies. And don’t get me started on the embroidered ones of you: either the embroidery awkwardly lies halfway up my shoulder, because polos don’t fit humans, or it lies halfway down my breast, making every interaction with a customer a morass of uncomfortable glances.

But you’re not getting off either, ladies-cut polos. No–if anything, you’re worse. What is it that prompted every polo manufacturer in America to size their polos for twelve-year-olds? They cling uncomfortably up top–both revealing the outline of your bra and giving the general public the impression you are some magical primate with a single breast–and bunch around your stomach. Even Jillian Michaels would have stomach fat the way these things fit. And, unlike the overlarge mens’ polos which give you an extra foot of fabric if you dare to tuck them in, these beauties manage to stop two inches above the waistband of your shorts.

It doesn’t matter what shorts you are wearing.

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On considering staying here

My sister and I are spending our Wednesday afternoon watching Toddlers and Tiaras (her choice, not mine). A Route 66 sign popped up, because of course that shit is in the Midwest. I asked my sister–who misses Tulsa, loves Tulsa, wishes a little bit that we had never left Tulsa–whether she plans to move back to the Midwest when she finishes school.

“No,” she said, rolling her eyes in the way she does that implies that I’m challenged. “I want to move up north.” I asked her whether she wanted east coast or west–she was pretty certain that she wanted east. Continue reading