“Prisons for Animals”


This short composition was discovered in the Stanford University Library, tipped into the inside cover of a bound first volume of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1909 magazine The Forerunner:

Spring is in the air. All creatures feel it. The fish are shooting up the rivers, the birds hard working and happy; every animal feels the lift and stir and new life. Even those which are in prison. …

What excuse has the Prison for Animals? What have they done to merit this life sentence?

Spring is in the air. The trees are misty with soft color, blurred with swelling buds, all aslant with curly tassels of young blossoms. The grass is pushing up in joyous vigor, green as it is never green again; soft, sweet, the delicious new first growth; beginning of a long summer’s feasting.

Here are the deer prisons. They have a high iron fence around them, another railing outside that. They have a wooden house for shelter. They have underfoot, cinders — gravel and cinders. …

To keep in a prison yard an animal built for speed, accustomed to wide ranging, to long swift flight, is cruelty. …

And for what? For whose benefit? Does it give pleasure? Those who find pleasure in gazing at helpless pain had better go unpleased. …

These beasts in prison, these who bear no burdens, provide neither food nor drink, wool nor hide — what excuse have we for tormenting them?

Here is a bald eagle. A bird of freedom. … The eagle sits huddled, dull as a brooding vulture. …

Here is a hawk, fierce-eyed. He beats his wings to tatters … against the bars.

Here is an elephant, huge, patient, with small, smouldering eyes that see more than we think. Manacled, this beast, chained at both ends, fore foot and hind foot, to stout posts. The elephant is a water lover. His dry hide itches for water. He wants to wade into it, to draw it up and pour it all over himself. …

All wild creatures have a keen, delicate sense of smell … We imprison them in fetid odors. They needs must breathe, night and day, the repulsive smell of their enemies, odors of danger and distrust. …

(Via Robert Alexander, ed., Spring Phantoms, 2018.)



1985 saw an oddity in the chess world: Russian grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi undertook a game with Hungarian Géza Maróczy, who had been dead for 34 years. The game was arranged by amateur Swiss player Wolfgang Eisenbeiss, who enlisted medium Robert Rollans to contact the deceased grandmaster and communicate his moves. (Rollans did not play chess and was not paid.)

Closely watched in Germany, the game took nearly eight years to unfold, hampered by Korchnoi’s schedule, Rollans’ illness, and Maróczy’s unhurried pace. Korchnoi, who won after 47 moves, remarked that his opponent had shown weakness in the opening but made up for it with a strong endgame.

After an analysis in 2007, neuropsychiatrist and amateur player Vernon Neppe declared that Maróczy had played at master level and that his moves could not have been found by a computer. Further, when asked to confirm his identity, the deceased grandmaster had dictated 38 pages of text to Rollans, complaining, “I am astonished when somebody does not believe me to be here personally.” Historian and chess expert Laszlo Sebestyen determined that 87.9 percent of Maróczy’s assertions there (about his playing, tournament wins, and personal life) had been accurate.

But in a 2021 critique, Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha point out that Maróczy had typically taken 10 days to make each move, during which time Rollans might easily have consulted outside assistance. And the medium had had ample time to prepare Maróczy’s 1986 communication confirming his identity. Ultimately the answers lie with Rollans, who, ironically, passed quickly out of reach — he died just 19 days after Maróczy’s resignation.

For What It’s Worth

A 2009 study in the journal Sex Roles found that James Bond had had “strong” sexual contact with 46 women in the first 20 films in the Eon Productions Bond series (up to Die Another Day).

He had “mild” encounters, such as kissing, with another 52.

For comparison, Bond author Henry Chancellor had counted 58 sexual encounters in the first 20 films (according to Ben MacIntyre in For Your Eyes Only). Interestingly, Chancellor calculated that Bond sleeps with just 14 women in the 12 books that appeared between 1953 and 1964.

Still, that’s a lot of partners. “The likelihood of James Bond having chlamydia is extremely high,” general practitioner Sarah Jarvis told the BBC. “If he came to my clinic I would definitely advise him to have an STI test.”

(Kimberly A. Neuendorf, et al., “Shaken and Stirred: A Content Analysis of Women’s Portrayals in James Bond Films,” Sex Roles 62:11-12 [2010], 747-761.)

Play On

Local rules adopted at British golf courses during World War II:

  • “In competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.”
  • “The positions of known delayed-action bombs are marked by red flags placed at a reasonably, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.”
  • “A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.”
  • “A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty one stroke.”

In Curiosities of Golf (1994), Jonathan Rice writes, “At Folkestone GC, the wartime rules included the rather grudging allowance that ‘a ball may be lifted and dropped if in a bomb hole in the rough, but not if the bomb hole is in or part of a recognized hazard.’ So if you sliced your drive and just caught a bunker by the side of the fairway, which then turned out to be fifty feet deep thanks to an overnight bombing raid, you just had to play out of the hazard, however unrecognizable it might have been compared with the day before. They breed tough golfers in Folkestone.”

In July 1941, some American clubs reportedly adopted similar rules in a show of solidarity.

UPDATE: Here are the rules adopted by Richmond GC, southwest of London. (Thanks, Brieuc.)

The Little People


In medieval chess, each of the eight pawns was associated with a commoner’s occupation. From king rook pawn to queen rook pawn:

  • Laborer (farmer)
  • Smith
  • Notary
  • Merchant
  • Physician
  • Innkeeper
  • City watchman or guard
  • Ribald or town courier

The merchant stood before the king, the doctor before the queen.

Jacopo de Cessolis used the game as the basis for a series of sermons on morality — he says that a philosopher invented the game to show his cruel king “the maners and conditicions of a kynge of the nobles and of the comun people and of theyr offices and how they shold be touchid and drawen. And how he shold amende hymself & become vertuous.”

(From Christopher Kleinhenz’s Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, 2004.)


A poignant little detail I found in Jay Scarfone and William Stillman’s The Wizardry of Oz: For the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, MGM designated a flying monkey named Nikko to serve as the Wicked Witch’s familiar.

Unlike the other monkeys, Nikko has very small wings. An early script, dated July 5, 1938, explains that the Witch had clipped his wings to ensure his servitude.

In that script, it’s Nikko who presses the water bucket into Dorothy’s hands at the critical moment.

Mind Games


Card expert John Scarne tells the story of an elderly, distinguished gentleman, apparently slightly inebriated, who one night began observing the play at a Houston roulette table. Presently he began to complain about how unlucky he was.

“What do you mean, unlucky?” the croupier asked.

“Number 32 just won, didn’t it?” the man said.

“Yes, but you didn’t have a bet down,” said the croupier. “What’s unlucky about that?”

“Oh, yes, I did,” the man said. “I made a $10 mind bet on 26 and lost!” He gave the croupier a $10 bill. “I always pay my losses,” he said, “even on mind bets.”

The croupier tried to return the money, but the old man wouldn’t take it, so the croupier rolled his eyes and shoved the bill into the money box.

The old man disappeared in the direction of the bar, but returned just as the croupier was spinning the wheel. When the ball dropped he shouted excitedly, “That’s me! I bet ten bucks on number 20, and I won!”

The croupier tried to continue the play, but the man, who suddenly seemed much more sober, demanded to be paid the $350 he had won in his mind bet.

“He kept this up until the casino manager was called,” Scarne writes. “After hearing what had happened, he ruled that since the croupier had accepted a $10 losing mental bet, he must pay off on the winning mind bet. You can be quite sure that this was the last mental bet which that croupier or any other in that casino ever accepted.”

(From J. Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling, 1974.)

Rotating Office


Actress Ilka Chase married Louis Calhern in 1926, but he divorced her the following year to marry Julia Hoyt.

Sorting through her possessions afterward, she discovered a set of engraved calling cards that she’d had printed with the name Mrs. Louis Calhern.

“They were the best cards — thin, flexible parchment, highly embossed — and it seemed a pity to waste them, and so I mailed the box to my successor,” she wrote later.

“But aware of Lou’s mercurial marital habits, I wrote on the top one, ‘Dear Julia, I hope these reach you in time.’

“I received no acknowledgment.”

(From Chase’s 1945 autobiography Past Imperfect.)

In a Word

res angusta domi
n. straitened financial circumstances

adj. having the hand opened out so as to display the palm

n. a state of hesitation or doubt

n. careful guidance

n. the art of counting on the fingers

v. to roar or bellow

Stage Whiskers

In 1854 Robert Barnabas Brough wrote a one-act farce that centers on mustaches:

LOUISA. (looking at his moustache rapturously) And yours are such loves! (caressing them)

SOSKINS. (putting his hand up nervously) D—don’t pull ’em about.

LOUISA. (passionately) I wouldn’t injure a hair of them for worlds! — For they are the load-star of my existence!

SOSKINS. (aside) Ahem! (seriously, taking her hand, walking her up and down) Louisa, I fear it is the moustache and not the man you love.

LOUISA. Oh! don’t say that, Anthony — though I own it was they first won me, two months ago, when we met at the Eagle …

In the end she tells the audience, “I charge you, O women, for the love you bear to moustaches, to like this play as an advocate for their growing — and I charge you, O men, for the anxiety you have to grow moustaches … that on the hundredth night I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, moustaches that liked me, and whiskers that were dyed not.”