Kickoff For October 7, 2019

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I’ve found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

A quick note about next week’s kickoff: for many of you, it’ll be coming a day late. I’ll publish it on Monday, but Monday in North America. Why? I’m taking my annual trip to Raleigh, NC and that’ll play a few fun games with my sense of time and location. But Monday is Monday, no matter where or when it is …

Speaking of which, let’s get this Monday started with these links:


The Myth of Blubber Town, an Arctic Metropolis, wherein we learn about Smeerenburg, a seventeenth century Dutch whaling station that, despite being never more than a desolate outpost, gained a legendary status among sailors, writers, and the wider public.

‘A Compelling Power’: When Mesmerism Came to America, wherein Max Nelson explains how, for a few years in the middle of the nineteenth century, the practice of mesmerism took hold in America and looks at some of the uses people proposed for it.

Pinkerton Spy, Feminist Icon - Meet Kate Warne, America’s first female detective and spy, who thwarted an assassination plot on Lincoln, wherein we hear the story of Kate Warne who, in the mid-nineteenth century, was one of the top detectives at the legendary Pinkerton agency, and opened up an entire field to women like herself.

The Dark Side of Technology

Singapore: Laboratory of Digital Censorship, wherein we learn that Singapore’s new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act is, on the surface, well intentioned but that below the surface it’s yet another tool for the governing party to control speech, criticism, and opinion.

Ghosts of the Future, wherein Julia Foote likens the so-called smart home to the settings of horror fiction and movies, and examines how there is a tangible aspect to the internet of things, even if we can’t always see it.

Americans Are Making Phone Farms to Scam Free Money From Advertisers, wherein we enter the shady world of people who use multiple cheap smartphones to tap their way to (albeit small) amounts of money by faking engagement with online content.


The Grand Schemes of the Petty Grift, wherein we enter the world of Jeremy Wilson, a small-time con artist whose dissembling was an escape from his dismal reality, but an escape that (in his head, at least) blurred into that reality.

The Rise and Fall of a New York Shock Jock, wherein we learn how the gambling addiction of New York sports radio host Craig Carton led him to scam millions, and how that resulted in his personal and professional downfall.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Defrauding Agency, wherein we learn about the exploits of Sarah Howe, a nineteenth-century scammer who ran a Ponzi scheme (long before Ponzi came on the scene) that targeted single, working American women.

And that’s it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt