What I'm Reading (Sept. 28)

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Spy vs. Spy
The real Uncle Tom
File this under unintended consequences of regulations

If you were a boy of a certain age and time, say the late 50s and early 60s then you know Spy vs. Spy. But the back story is wonderful to read now that I am older.

“Think about how many satirical pitfalls Spy vs. Spy avoids simply by the nature of its setup. The spies are obvious stand-ins, but despite the loaded nature of their black and white designations, they aren’t direct send-ups of any particular country or regime. They’re both treacherous and stupid, because the two of them being on the same level better develops the metaphor and subverts the classic Tom/Jerry, Elmer/Bugs, Coyote/Roadrunner dynamic. (Prohías and the editors went so far as to “keep score” of who won and lost in every strip so neither would ever pull ahead.) There’s no overarching plot or story, including even the most basic details of the strip’s presumed “wartime” setting, and whatever lore can be said to exist is thin and deliberately vague.”

From Long Reads, A Hand From One Page, A Bomb From Another: Rethinking “Spy vs. Spy”


“Proslavery newspaper columnists and southern planters had responded to the huge success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by accusing Stowe of hyperbole and outright falsehood. Benevolent masters, they said, took great care of the enslaved people who worked for them; in some cases, they treated them like family. The violent, inhumane conditions Stowe described, they contended, were fictitious. By naming her sources, and outlining how they had influenced her story, Stowe hoped to prove that her novel was rooted in fact.

Stowe first wrote about Henson’s 1849 autobiography in her 1853 book A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an annotated bibliography of sorts in which she cited a number of nonfiction accounts she had used as source material for her best-selling novel. Stowe later said that Henson’s narrative had served as an inspiration for Uncle Tom.”

First a character, then an epithet. But Uncle Tom was an interesting human. From The Atlantic, The Man Who Became Uncle Tom


“The most important person in the learning process is the learner. The next most important is the teacher… The teacher does not fill up bottles—it’s much more like gardening. You don’t grow plants by going out with Scotch tape and sticking leaves onto the stems. The plant grows.”

From Austin Kleon’s substack, The teacher as gardener


“From the late 1930s through the ’70s, the federal government regulated airlines as a public utility. The Civil Aeronautics Board decided which airlines could fly what routes and how much they could charge. It aimed to set prices that were fair for travelers and that would provide airlines with a modest profit. Then, in 1978, Congress passed a sweeping law deregulating the airline industry and ultimately abolishing the CAB. Unleashed from regulation, airlines devised new tactics to capture the market. American Airlines was one of the most aggressive. In the lead-up to the deregulation bills, it created discount “super saver” fares to sell off the final few remaining seats on planes. That meant cheap prices for last-minute travelers and more revenue for American, because the planes were going to take off whether or not the seat was filled. But these fares upset business travelers, who tended to buy tickets further in advance for higher prices. So in 1981, American developed AAdvantage, its frequent-flier program, to give them additional benefits.”


Everybody gets airline miles, but increasingly they are becoming worthless. From The Atlantic, Airlines Are Just Banks Now