A History of Foreigners, by Rumboldt Schnorckelhausen. We all know that the history of our country began in 1776 and continues uninterrupted to the present day, with a slight hiccup in the 1860s that we’d rather not talk about. But did you know that there are human beings living outside the borders of the United States? In this fascinating study, Prof. Schnorckelhausen takes us to foreign lands with such unlikely names as “Switzerland,” “Bangladesh,” and “Puerto Rico” and shows us what their inhabitants have been doing all this time. 16mo, 96 pp.


Tragic Backstory Academy. A new student at the Academy is shunned, mocked, bullied, and hounded to the brink of suicide for being the only student without a tragic backstory. Check local listings.


Freshman congressman Albert Cardoon, responding to allegations that surfaced in news reports shortly before his swearing in, has admitted that some of the statements he made during his campaign were not strictly accurate. In particular, Cardoon did not invent penicillin; he was not the “mastermind” behind Doctors Without Borders; he did not write thirty-nine plays under the pseudonym “William Shakespeare”; he was not the first American to walk on Mars; he is not a full-blooded Appomattoc chief; he did not obtain doctorates at Oxford and Cambridge simultaneously; he did not win Super Bowl XLVII; he did not write the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation; his parents were not killed in the 9/11 attacks; his sister was not killed in the Johnstown Flood; his son Herbert was not killed in Pompeii in a.d. 79, but is still in the seventh grade at Blandville Junior High School; his Uncle Al is not the same Alexander who conquered Persia; and his wife is not Lillian Russell. Cardoon insists, however, that it is true that his family “in the direct ancestral line” was expelled from the Garden of Eden for what he terms a “very minor offense.”


It is generally presumed that people who look for information on the Web want it in video form. For example, if you go to the HathiTrust Digital Library, which is a collection of books, you will find instructions on the front page for building your own personal collection of books at HathiTrust. The instructions are given in the form of a YouTube video.

Dr. Boli does not like information presented in video form. What he especially dislikes is running across a Web page that is so certain he wants his information in video form that it immediately starts playing a video at him without his permission. And the very worst offenders are the pages that do have information that is meant to be read, but overwhelm it with dancing animations and videos that make it impossible to keep our eyes on the text. For example, the current front page of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh site, which fills the screen with a confused cacophony of moving images to inform us that we can get a printed program guide if we like. Can anyone think of a better way to inform readers of the availability of printed schedules of library programs than with a video showing library patrons dancing around with the printed guide and not reading it?

That was the site that finally sent Dr. Boli off on a quest for some way to kill the moving images. If you use Firefox, there is a simple setting to disable autoplay. If you use Chrome or Edge, there is no such setting. There used to be years ago, but it was taken away, on the grounds (we suppose) that users were abusing it by disabling autoplay, which is a rotten thing to do. Advertisers pay good money to Google to place animated ads all over the Web, and Google does not fund the Chromium project just to flush that money down the sewer. What was that famously aspirational Google slogan again? “Let’s be evil”? Something like that.

Fortunately, there are browser extensions that will accomplish the same thing. But there is not yet a browser extension that does exactly what Dr. Boli would like. The one he uses right now stops videos from automatically playing without his permission, which is good as far as it goes. What Dr. Boli would really like, however, is an extension that would allow him to click on any video or animation that started by itself, and with that click simultaneously kill the movement on the page and deliver a harmless but painful electric shock to the Web designer who thought the autoplaying video was a good idea. Dr. Boli is prepared to reward a programmer who can create such an extension with his patronage. Note that, if the “harmless” part of the specifications proves impossible to implement, Dr. Boli is still likely to be generous.


From the President’s Message on a company site:

Each year, together we set goals to appreciably advance the company in its 8 key business areas: Firm Structure, Finance, Operations, People, Culture, Marketing, Production, and Design.

Q. What comes dead last on the list of key business areas for this firm?

A. Design.

Q. What is this firm trying to sell?

A. Architecture.


In a dank and dreary prison in Poland, two men are waiting. They have nothing to do but wait. In three days they will be executed. The time for hope is long past; no riders will come from the king with a sudden reprieve; no appeal will reverse their sentences.

Then a key turns in the lock. Slowly the massive door creaks open, and in the blinding light is the silhouette of the consul of the city.

“All right, men,” he says. “There’s a basilisk in an old cellar, and it needs to come out. In exchange for a full pardon, who wants to put on the mirror suit and go down after it?”

One of the men volunteers.

The basilisk or cockatrice (the two terms had become synonymous by the 1600s) was a known fact of natural history, and now you can be well informed on all matters to do with basilisks, because Dr. Boli has taken the trouble to transcribe a learned treatise on the subject by George Caspard Kirchmayer, one of those wonderful old naturalists who studied all of nature without setting foot in the grubby outdoors. “To deny the existence of the basilisk is to carp at the evidence of men’s eyes and their experiences in many different places,” says Kirchmayer. However, he is not such a fool as to believe in those old wives’ tales about its killing men with a glance. No silly mirror suits for him. They wouldn’t do him a bit of good: the basilisk could kill him with its breath.

This translation of Kirchmeyer’s learned treatise is by Edmund Goldsmid, a Scottish bibliophile who published a number of translations of old Latin treatises in very limited editions. Unfortunately he died young; otherwise he might have left us English versions of much more of that “lost continent of literature,” as James Hankins called the neo-Latin world. Mr. Goldsmid’s notes are worth reading in themselves: they introduce us to many of the other characters in the scholarship of the 1500s and 1600s. It is remarkable how many of them died of stubbornness. “Having convinced himself that one could not catch the plague at 60 years of age, he took no precautions, and died of that disease in 1596.” “Cardanus…starved himself to death in 1576, to accomplish his own prophecy that he would not live beyond the age of seventy-five.”

You can read Kirchmayer on Basilisks at the Argosy of Pure Delight, where we present it in mobile-friendly and Web-friendly form. You can also see the original page images of Edmund Gosmid’s translation in the Internet Archive; you may notice that, in his transcription, Dr. Boli has silently corrected a number of printing errors in Goldsmid’s edition—and doubtless introduced some new ones, because that always happens.