Sunday, August 3, 2003

The Cult of ID - Our strange obsession with driver's license photos. By Christopher Hitchens:
At Oxford, where two rivers meet, there is a private stretch of the bank (or there used to be) called 'Parson's Pleasure.' Since Victorian times, this shaded resort was reserved for male dons who wished to swim and sunbathe in the nude. A barrier prevented any stray punts or boats from interrupting this idyll, and women and girls understood that this retreat was off-limits. One day, however, while the river was higher and faster than usual, a ladies' boating party was swept through the barrier and into the all-male backwater. Shrieks and giggles from the boat, and a sudden, protective downward reaching of the hands on the part of all bathers on the bank. All but one. The late Sir Maurice Bowra, Hellenist and epigrammist, raised his hands to shield his craggy visage. There they all stood or sat until the fair intruders had sailed past, whereupon a general outbreak of sheepishness occurred, punctuated by Bowra saying: 'I don't know about you chaps, but I'm known by my face around here'
(from Slate).

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