“The past is a foreign country; shit is fucked up there.”

So (approximately) wrote the English novelist L.P. Hartley in some book that nobody reads anymore yet still gets quoted to death by hack book reviewers, essayists, and historians. Hartley knew what he was talking about, which is only to be expected since, unlike us, he lived in the past. Yet the deep-dish profundity of this moth-eaten cliche can only be fully appreciated by those who, like me, waste a lot of time perusing ancient newspapers published long before the advent of our spotless glass-domed cities, fusion-powered monorails, perfected health-care system, and convenient boil-in-bag foods.