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The Whippet #25: Building goats again

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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Good morning .

Today in Getting Mad at Freud and/or People Who Have Misinterpreted Freud, we’re talking about longing to return to the womb. (New, pockets-feelings subscribers: this isn’t actually a regular segment, but it could be; there’s enough material. Everyone else: read this excellent twitter thread on clothing and sexism.)

Anyway, this idea that we like cosy spaces and soft beats because we secretly want to return to the womb is one that gets casually repeated a lot, often flippantly, and it just seems like maybe trash-garbage to me? I’m pretty sure feeling safe is the endpoint, we don’t just like safety for nostalgia reasons. So much of this stuff is putting theory over, just, thinking for two seconds about what your actual experiences and emotions are like.

It’s like being told that, when you’re afraid of the future, you’re afraid of the unknown. Nah, I’m specifically afraid that I won’t be able to get enough freelance clients and I’ll go into massive debt before having to take a job scaring pensioners into buying unnecessary insurance.

I’ve heard adults say that kids’ fear of the dark is really fear of the unknown. Do you remember being a kid, and being afraid of the dark? There was a really long hallway between my bedroom and the brightly lit loungeroom, and the space between my shoulderblades twitched the whole time I walked down it, because I would be imagining murderers creeping behind me. I don’t know what you were afraid was hiding in the dark, but it was an actual monster or witch or something right? You weren’t just “oh, I don’t know what’s there, I crave certainty.” You wouldn’t have been less afraid if you’d known for sure it was a murdering witch-monster.

Freud! Go home.

Sputnik Monroe: good face, good guy

Pro wrestler from the 1940s who sparked off desegregation at sporting venues.

"The witty, flamboyant Sputnik Monroe began dressing up in a purple gown and carrying a diamond tipped cane and drinking in traditionally black bars in the black area of Memphis. As a result of this, he was frequently arrested by police on a variety of trumped up charges, such as mopery. He would then hire a black attorney and appear in court, pay a fine, and immediately resume fraternizing with black citizens and drinking in their bars. Due to this, and in spite of the fact that he was a heel at the time, his popularity soared among the black community. At his shows, although floor seats in arenas would be half empty with white patrons, the balcony would be packed to capacity with black patrons with many others unable to enter due to the balcony selling out."

"Monroe, having become the biggest wrestling draw at the time, soon refused to perform unless black patrons were allowed to sit in any seat at the Ellis Auditorium. As a result, his wrestling shows were desegregated and the shows then completely sold out with Monroe's many black fans filling the auditorium. Soon, other southern sporting events, recognizing the enormous financial benefits, began to desegregate as well." Wikipedia

The toucan barbet

Photo: Susan Ellison.

The difference between hardwood and softwood

is not whether it's hard or soft. It's whether the seed has a hard outer casing or not. (Softwoods are usually conifers; the cone doesn't count as a "casing".) But then, also, most hardwoods are by coincidence more dense than softwoods. The whole thing is a mess and we shouldn't have to put up with it.

Witch flute with rat leg, 1850

Heksenfluit (witch flute), with death’s head and rat leg, ca. 1850, Collectie MAS, Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerpen. Photo by Louis de Peuter. via @sarah_calavera . The writing seems to be French: if anyone can understand more than 'sabbat' and 'rat', I'd love to know.

"Jane Austen’s most widely mocked character is also her most subversive"

I was fully expecting some nonsense contrarian clickbait, but it's actually... it's actually pretty true and astonishing.

I'm not going to include the full argument here because I don't want to bore people who haven't read/seen it, but, we're talking about Mrs Bennet, and to some extent Lydia.

She's mocked for ignoring the social rules and doing and saying whatever she likes, regardless of whether it's considered appropriate behaviour for her class and gender. She's the only one of the Bennets who doesn't condemn Lydia for having pre-marital sex. Lizzie and Jane are good people within the confines of their society, but Mrs Bennet ignores the confines of her society - she does seem a lot more like the kind of women we tend to lionise now.

I get a kind of thrill about re-assessing something I felt really sure about, so this essay was great. Read the whole thing at LitHub.

If you haven't read any Jane Austen, I recommend starting with Northanger Abbey. It's a light-hearted satire of gothic novels with a far more likeable and funny love interest than Darcy, who seems to actually like the protagonist.

The Gävle Goat and its many enemies

"The Gävle Goat is a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget (Castle Square) in central Gävle, Sweden. It is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw. It is erected each year at the beginning of Advent over a period of two days by local community groups, and has become famous for being destroyed in arson attacks during December.

Despite security measures and the nearby presence of a fire station, the goat has been burned to the ground almost every year since its first appearance in 1966."

Also, there's now a rival goat. Originally the goats were built by a group of businesspeople called the Southern Merchants. In 1971, they stopped, and the Natural Science Club (part of a school) took over. In 1986, the Southern Merchants started building goats again, and then they got into a petty rivalry about whose was the biggest (and increased the pool of arsonists attempting to take down both goats).

One year the Southern Merchants tried to break the world record for biggest Yule goat, and the Natural Science Club, instead of competing, built a very small "protest" goat. "The Natural Science Club put up a sign near their goat wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone except the Southern Merchants."

"In 2001, the goat was burned down by a 51-year-old visitor from Cleveland, Ohio in the United States, who spent 18 days in jail and was subsequently convicted and ordered to pay 100,000 Swedish kronor in damages. The court confiscated his cigarette lighter with the argument that he clearly was not able to handle it. He stated in court that he was no "goat burner", and believed that he was taking part in a completely legal goat-burning tradition. After he was released from jail he returned to the US without paying his fine."

Wikipedia has a timeline noting the fate of the goat in each calendar year. It's mostly "Fire" but I particularly enjoyed "1978: Kicked to pieces" and "2000: thrown into the Gävle river".

But then last year kind of broke my heart. "2016: Destroyed by an arsonist equipped with petrol on its inauguration day, just hours after its 50th "birthday party". Organizers said they would not rebuild the goat this year. It was replaced by a smaller "replica" built by local high school students. This goat was later hit by a car."


Solicited Advice

Dear The Whippet,

Does Berocca work?

Does Berocca work? I feel like it helps when I have a big night ahead of me, I have one at work at about 4. But I'm a sceptic and I can't figure it out on the Internet. Pls advise."

A quick reminder that I'm not a doctor, just a lady that experiments with legal and grey-area supplements a lot! Berocca is mostly a high dose of B Vitamins, so it's not placebo. A lot of people get what's called a "niacin (B3) flush" because it's a vasodilator, so if you're feeling unsure, take more until that happens and you'll be like "okay, something real is definitely happening." I sometimes take sulbutiamine, which is a synthetic b-vitamin with a similar affect. I mean it won't make you smarter but the peppy effect isn't placebo.

Berocca also has magnesium in it, which a lot of recreational drug users take to stop them grinding their teeth, or if you get restless legs at night. It stops your muscles being so twitchy. So that's real too. Also if you have a deficiency in magnesium or zinc (more common in men) then supplementing will make you feel better because it's bringing you up to normal. If you're vegetarian/vegan you could have a B12 deficiency, which would make you tired.

There's this thing where, when you ask if a vitamin is good for you, doctors always say "you don't need vitamins if you have a healthy, balanced diet" and you're like "yeah I don't though, can you tell me if it's good for me if I just eat chips and gravy for breakfast most days?" but they won't say because of the Hippocratic oath or something. is my go-to resource for this sort of thing. It has an overview of most supplements and drugs, with info on how many studies, of what quality, show how robust an effect.

For Niacin, it says "Current evidence suggests prolonged niacin supplementation increases insulin resistance because it hinders the ability of insulin to suppress glucose synthesis in the liver." although looking at the amounts in Berocca, they're actually not as high as I realised. Examine is talking about taking about a gram and Berocca is like 50mg. I was going to say: "don't take it every day" but my new recommendation is "don't take it more than once a day, but also, try a way higher dose of B-vitamins some time, see how you like it". Reminder, not a doctor.

If you want solicited advice, ideally not medical advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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