January 22, 2019

Erstwhile idiot becomes genius.

I just ran across this cartoon from the March 19, 1949 issue of The New Yorker:



That caption is: "Wouldn't you think they'd have a place for withdrawals, too?"

At the time, she was laughed at as a fool, but from our point of view, she's envisioning the ATM machine. Genius!

Why am I reading the March 19, 1949 issue of The New Yorker?, you ask.

I wanted to see the old J.D. Salinger story "The Laughing Man," because I was talking about it in the comments to yesterday's post, "With a gun against my belly, I always smile." That post was about the criticism of the Covington Catholic schoolboy's smile, which was not a natural smile, but a forced smile, and I had got to thinking about our sensitivity to smiles that don't arise out of relaxed happiness.

That moved the commenter Nonapod to say, "One of the more tragic smiles is from the silent film 'The Man Who Laughs'" and to link to this:



I said:
Thanks, Nonapod. I had never seen that before. Fantastically melodramatic and completely effective.

It made me think of the J.D. Salinger story "The Laughing Man," and I see from Wikipedia:

"The Laughing Man" is a short story by J. D. Salinger, published originally in The New Yorker on March 19, 1949; and also in Salinger’s short story collection Nine Stories. It largely takes the structure of a story within a story and is thematically occupied with the relationship between narrative and narrator, and the end of youth. The story is inspired by the Victor Hugo novel of the same name: The Man Who Laughs (L'homme qui rit)."
From Salinger's story (click to enlarge and clarify):
 
In Hugo's story...
In late 17th-century England, a homeless boy named Gwynplaine rescues an infant girl during a snowstorm, her mother having frozen to death whilst feeding her. They meet an itinerant carnival vendor who calls himself Ursus, and his pet wolf, Homo. Gwynplaine's mouth has been mutilated into a perpetual grin; Ursus is initially horrified, then moved to pity, and he takes them in. Fifteen years later, Gwynplaine has grown into a strong young man, attractive except for his distorted visage. The girl, now named Dea, is blind, and has grown into a beautiful and innocent young woman. By touching his face, Dea concludes that Gwynplaine is perpetually happy. They fall in love. Ursus and his surrogate children earn a meagre living in the fairs of southern England. Gwynplaine keeps the lower half of his face concealed. In each town, Gwynplaine gives a stage performance in which the crowds are provoked to laughter when Gwynplaine reveals his grotesque face....
Since I'm talking about the Catholic schoolboy's face again and looking into literature, I wanted to link to my son John's blog post, "Why are adults freaking out about a smiling kid?" which begins:
In the novel 1984, George Orwell wrote about a dystopian future where “to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for instance) was itself a punishable offense.” It was called a "facecrime."
From "1984":
It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called. The girl had turned her back on him again.

52 comments:

Earnest Prole said...

Reminds me of the old Sperm Bank Night Deposit cartoon. Sadly, a watermark has ruined the punchline.

Achilles said...

This kids crime was being a white male trump supporter.

And bigots jumped all over him.

Just like they do every time.

Then they change their story the next day and apologize for being “misled.”

You should apologize for being a bigot and stop supporting the racist haters.

Achilles said...

If I took a drum and jumped in front of a bunch of Antifa thugs or some BLM march and started yelling in their faces do you think they would act as well as these kids?

Do you think Ann would call them racists and bigots and attack them when they predictably turned to violence? Ben Shapiro? NRO chucks?

No.

They wouldn’t. Because they are the “good” people.

BarrySanders20 said...

Now we have hatcrime.

Hatcrime is hatecrime. So says the Ministry of Truth.

tcrosse said...

The Man Who Laughs was played by the great Conrad Veidt, who later showed up in Casablanca.

Dave Begley said...

AOC should make facecrime a federal offense.

Facecrime? Thoughtcrime? Hatecrime? What's the difference?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

itinerant carnival vendor

i read that as internet carnival vendor

tcrosse said...

Smirking with Intent, in the First Degree. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.

Darrell said...

He named his dog "Homo?"

Now I'm calling bullshit!

Bill Peschel said...

Would it be too much to expect adults to not base their political system on a picture of a face? It puts you in the same position as the Daily Mail, which loves to write captions such as "Giselle Bunchan appears DISTRESSED that Tom Brady will be going to the Super Bowl."*

* I guess. I don't care enough to waste time looking it up.

Ann Althouse said...

"He named his dog "Homo?" Now I'm calling bullshit!"

I was going to comment on that, but let's read the Hugo novel — http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12587/12587-h/12587-h.htm — it begins:

"Ursus and Homo were fast friends. Ursus was a man, Homo a wolf. Their dispositions tallied. It was the man who had christened the wolf: probably he had also chosen his own name. Having found Ursus fit for himself, he had found Homo fit for the beast. Man and wolf turned their partnership to account at fairs, at village fêtes, at the corners of streets where passers-by throng, and out of the need which people seem to feel everywhere to listen to idle gossip and to buy quack medicine. The wolf, gentle and courteously subordinate, diverted the crowd. It is a pleasant thing to behold the tameness of animals. Our greatest delight is to see all the varieties of domestication parade before us. This it is which collects so many folks on the road of royal processions.

"Ursus and Homo went about from cross-road to cross-road, from the High Street of Aberystwith to the High Street of Jedburgh, from country-side to country-side, from shire to shire, from town to town. One market exhausted, they went on to another. Ursus lived in a small van upon wheels, which Homo was civilized enough to draw by day and guard by night. On bad roads, up hills, and where there were too many ruts, or there was too much mud, the man buckled the trace round his neck and pulled fraternally, side by side with the wolf. They had thus grown old together. They encamped at haphazard on a common, in the glade of a wood, on the waste patch of grass where roads intersect, at the outskirts of villages, at the gates of towns, in market-places, in public walks, on the borders of parks, before the entrances of churches. When the cart drew up on a fair green, when the gossips ran up open-mouthed and the curious made a circle round the pair, Ursus harangued and Homo approved. Homo, with a bowl in his mouth, politely made a collection among the audience. They gained their livelihood. The wolf was lettered, likewise the man. The wolf had been trained by the man, or had trained himself unassisted, to divers wolfish arts, which swelled the receipts. "Above all things, do not degenerate into a man," his friend would say to him...."

gahrie said...

The crime wasn't the smirk. If it had been A.O.C. smirking, or a Black teenager there would have been no offense. The crime was being a White Catholic boy who could be accused of smirking.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Homo is man's best friend

Lucid-Ideas said...

Democractic People's Republic of America penal reg #2,378.2 - Wearing hat while smirking - Penalty/unpersoning

Democractic People's Republic of America penal reg #2,2230.1 - Wearing hat, any hat - Penalty/unpersoning

Democractic People's Republic of America penal reg #5,335.2 - Smiling. The act of raising the corners of one's mouth, showing teeth or not showing teeth optional - Categorized as CAPITAL CRIME - Penalty/being fed to horribly mutated puppies

Democractic People's Republic of America penal reg #10,4432.5 - The beating of native ceremonial drums in public - Award/DPRA Order of the Red Star, elevation to Hero of public zeitgeist and revolutionary work to blow thing out of all proportion.

Sebastian said...

"from our point of view, she's envisioning the ATM machine. Genius!"

The people who actually envisioned it were, wait for it, men. An Armenian guy and an English guy, if I can believe Google. Dudes. Boys being boys. Tinkering, you know, making useful stuff. Toxic, right?

M Jordan said...

I taught in Lithuania two separate times, first in 2008 then in 2012. When I first went there I was told by my mentors not to expect smiles from the older generation that I would see on the streets, that the public smiles had been erased from their faces thanks to the Soviet years. Meanwhile my freshmen class were the first year of freedom babies. Their smiles were equal to us over-smiling Americans.

That older generation still does not publicly smile. This is the end result of all socialist thought. Eventually, liberty-haters must destroy their opposition, even one registered by a simple smile.

Nonapod said...

Whenever there's a story like this, when something catches fire on social media and is reported far and wide, I always make an effort not to respond immediately. I'll just say I was immediately skeptical when I saw the headline "MAGA hat wearing teens hurl insults at elderly native American" story turned up in my news feed. I suspected there was much more going on than could be summed up in one headline or even one edited video.

after years and years of social media events like this, I can't understand why more people don't practice more caution. I mean, I totally get the urge to be first, and the urge to signal one's virtue, or the urge to come up with a snarky rejoinder to something someone else says. But people have been burned so many times by jumping on the bandwagon only to be humiliated. Why do they keep doing it? What is the reward? Are people incapable of learning? Is the humiliation of being badly wrong not painful enough?

Lucid-Ideas said...

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. Any competing pleasures - like smiling and wearing fashionable hats - will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler - subtle like a smirk is subtle. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of mobbing and trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a fake veteran indian beating a ceremonial drum in public — forever."

Curious George said...

"gahrie said...
The crime wasn't the smirk. If it had been A.O.C. smirking, or a Black teenager there would have been no offense. The crime was being a White Catholic boy who could be accused of smirking."

Nope. It was all about the MAGA hat.

narayanan said...

as to how Gwynplaine face was turned into "rictus grin" -

From Victor Hugo The Man Who Laughs

The comprachicos, or comprapequeños , were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today ...
Comprachicos, as well as comprapequeños , is a compound Spanish word that means “child
- buyers.” The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them.
They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry.
And what did they make of these children?
Monsters.
Why monsters?
To laugh.
The people need laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side - show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters ...
To succeed in producing a freak, one must get hold of him early. A dwarf must be started when he is small ... Hence, an art.

There were educators. They took a man and turned him into a miscarriage; they took a face and made a muzzle. They stunted growth; they mangled features. This artificial production of teratological cases had its own rules.
It was a whole science. Imagine a n inverted orthopedics. Where God had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where God had put harmony, they put deformity. Where God had put perfection, they brought back a botched attempt.
And, in the eyes of connoisseurs, it is the botched that was perfect ...
The practice of degrading man leads one to the practice of deforming him.
Deformity completes the task of political suppression ...
The comprachicos had a talent, to disfigure, that made them valuable in politics. To disfigure is better than to kill. There was the iron mask, but that is an awkward means. One cannot populate Europe with iron masks; deformed mountebanks, however, run through the streets without appearing implausible; besides, an iron mask can be torn off, a mask of flesh cannot. To mask you forever by means of your own face, nothing can be more ingenious ...

The comprachicos did not merely remove a child’s face, they removed his memory. At least, they removed as much of it as they could. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not in his mind. He could remember at most that one day he had been seized by some men, then had fallen asleep, and later they had cured him. Cured him of what? He did not know. Of the burning by sulphur and the incisions by iron, he remembered nothing. During the operation, the comprachicos made the little patient unconscious by means of a stupefying powder that passed for magic and
suppressed pain ...

In China, since time immemorial, they have achieved refinement in a special art and industry: the molding of a living man. One takes a child two or three years old, one puts him into a porcelain vase, more or less grotesque in shape, without cover or bottom, so that the head and feet protrude. In the daytime, one keeps this vase standing upright; at night, one lays it down, so that the child can sleep. Thus the child expands without growing, slowly filling the contours of the vase with his compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes irreparable. When one judges that this has occurred and that the monster is made, one breaks the vase, the child comes out, and one has a man in the shape of a pot.
(
Victor Hugo,
The Man Who Laughs
,
translation Ayn Rand)

http://www.stephenhicks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RandAyn-The-Comprachicos.pdf
Ayn Rand The Comprachicos

This article is about what American Education has beconme -
Written August-December 1970.
Published in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution , 1970

narayanan said...

If Buwaya reads this - was Victor Hugo correct with his account of Spanish origins of the terms?

narayanan said...

For the sake of your future generations I hope you will all read the article.

narayanan said...

I weep every time I read it.

gahrie said...

But people have been burned so many times by jumping on the bandwagon only to be humiliated. Why do they keep doing it?

Because no one is ever held accountable for their actions. CBF lies her ass off about Kavanaugh and gets rewarded with cash, and now the Democrats are talking about impeaching Kavanagh for perjury.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Trump invented haircrime. It's been all downhill from there.

Hagar said...

Helen Hokinson had a wicked pencil.

Wilbur said...

Did you notice the woman in the New Yorker cartoon looks like actress Madge Blake, who played Aunt Harriet on the original TV Batman?

I liked her best as Larry Mondello's mother on Leave It to Beaver.

Otto said...

If you want to trace the beginnings of Christian bashing which is one of the cornerstone of cultural marxism as witnessed by the "Covinington story" check out the opening paragraph of Salinger's work Ann displayed. "The only* son of a wealthy* missionary .... who refused( from a religious* conviction*) to pay the ransom".Salinger goes on to describe the gruesome results of that "religious conviction".
Now after over a half century of this Christian bashing BS by our "esteemed elites" like Salinger you can understand this phony Covington outrage.In my old neighborhood we would have called Salinger a horny underachieving malcontent putz.
Title of this piece should be "Erstwise putz becomes supposed genius"

Wince said...

This kid did not get the recognition he deserves for defusing the situation by putting smiles on other people's faces, including the angry protesters.

buwaya said...

Very good Althouse.
Everything modern and nasty is in Orwell.
He had it all figured out 70-80 years ago.

Skookum John said...

Homo homini lupus...

Robert Cook said...

"The Man Who Laughs was played by the great Conrad Veidt, who later showed up in Casablanca."

He previously played the somnambulist in the silent German film, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.A

Wince said...

"We do, however, accept smiles."

Wince said...

Premature reports of face crime result in face palm.

FIDO said...

I share Althouse's nostalgia (pain for things lost).

The place she cleaves to is when Professors were gods, women could slap men with impunity, and social standards were far less crude.

You know: before Post Modernism.

That genie will only go back into the bottle with a welcome theocracy, not this hated Progressive kind.

But I am making sure I reserve a nice shady place in front of the Wall when the Revolution comes.

William said...

The black Israelites used some politically incorrect terms so they're catching some flack.The Indian activist, although he told some obvious lies, has not said anything politically incorrect so he's still treated respectfully by the media. Some of those kidswore MAGA hats so they're fair game for any insult. The first amendment doesn't cover MAGA hats. Only anthem kneeling........The go to romance about homely guy/beautiful blind girl is Chaplin s City Lights. It can pull the heartstrings of the most calcified heart. Hitler wasn't ashamed to weep openly when he first saw it.

buwaya said...

"If you want to trace the beginnings of Christian bashing "

This goes back much further.

Anti-Catholicism goes back to the Reformation and the Wars of religion. In Britain anti-Catholicism was a constant theme till the end of the 19th century. The US inherited it direct from its source. Centuries of propaganda had its effect, and interestingly this was more of a bourgeois than a lower class affectation. You could not be an educated person without a dose of this.

Leftist anti-Catholicism has a more continental source and goes back to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and connected to socialism in the 19th century. Socialism was born sucking on the milk of liberal anticlericalism. Marx would have gotten nowhere without Victor Hugo or Eugene Sue, and the intellectual milieu that created them.

The US is not yet in as bad a state as France, for one, got to at various times.

rhhardin said...

Women are like that today but more touchy about it.

Michael K said...

Anti-Catholicism goes back to the Reformation and the Wars of religion.

It was pretty common in the south, too.

When I joined a fraternity in 1957, the resident advisor, a grad student, referred to me as a "mackerel Snapper."That was the first time I had heard the term. He was from Oklahoma and it was apparently a common term there for Catholics.

Ann Althouse said...

@narayanan

Thanks.

According to Wikipedia: "Comprachicos (also Comprapequeños and Cheylas) is a compound Spanish neologism meaning "child-buyers", which was coined by Victor Hugo in his novel The Man Who Laughs.[1] It refers to various groups in folklore who were said to change the physical appearance of human beings by manipulating growing children, in a similar way to the horticultural method of bonsai – that is, deliberate mutilation.... According to research by John Boynton Kaiser in the Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, "Victor Hugo has given us a pretty faithful picture of many characteristic details of social England of the 17th century; but the word Comprachicos is used to describe a people whose characteristics are an unhistorical conglomeration of much that was once actual but then obsolete in the history of human society."[1] Much that seems unimaginable today may have authentic roots in common practices of the seventeenth century.... "Comprachico" has been adopted as a pejorative term used for individuals and entities who manipulate the minds and attitudes of children in a way that will permanently distort their beliefs or worldview. Twentieth-century philosopher Ayn Rand referred to educators of the time as "the Comprachicos of the mind" in her article "The Comprachicos". Her criticism was targeted especially toward educational progressivists, but also grade-school and high-school educators who, in her view, used psychologically harmful methods of education."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprachicos

Michael K said...

those kids wore MAGA hats so they're fair game for any insult.

I heard a radio guy from Kentucky, Covington or Cincinnati, say that the kids did not buy the hats. They were passed out by someone. He said a chaperone told him. Sounds more and more like a planned hit job,.

rcocean said...

The 1984 quote is good.

I can't think of specific movies, but vaguely recall some old movies where a women will behave badly at a party, or be nasty to his face, or slap him, and the "Hero" will have a forced smile on his face. Because a "Gentlemen" shouldn't strike a lady, or be upset in public.

Plus, I think George Sanders in "all about Eve" may do the "forced smile" thing after a few "funny" zingers.

tcrosse said...

There's a movie, I forget which, where Bette Davis observes that a gentleman always removes his hat in the presence of a lady with a gun.

Bilwick said...

I called my dog "Homo." But that's because he's Gay.

tcrosse said...

I called my dog "Homo."

There are neighborhoods where I would advise you not to call your dog.

Gahrie said...

The Indian activist, although he told some obvious lies, has not said anything politically incorrect so he's still treated respectfully by the media.

He's being an asshole now. He's lying to the media and bitching that the kid "stole his narrative" (My nominee for SJW statement of the year) and refusing to meet the Covington kids. He's still pretending to be the aggrieved innocent victim.

William said...

The Indian activist will go to his grave without ever once being the butt of a late night comedian's joke.

Joanne Jacobs said...

Ursus is a man, but his name means "bear." I wonder why Hugo chose that. The wolf's name recalls homo sapiens.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine was the inspiration for Batman's arch nemesis the Joker.

Lawrence Person said...

Salinger and "The Laughing Man" play an important role in the Japanese anime TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

PM said...

Likely in ten or so years, there won't be ATMs as cash will become as dated as those NYer ladies.

cassandra lite said...

That and Esmé are my two favorites from the collection. Love when they cross over the Paris-Chinese border.