What does Eau de Nil mean?

Noted early twentieth century cultural signifier Eau de Nil wends it way from Flaubert in Egypt to Hitchcock to a fresh moment in the sun thanks to a cool president’s new portrait:

The term first entered our chromatic lexicon in the late nineteenth century, just as Egyptomania was hitting its peak. While in the British Isles talk of “the East” referred primarily to India, France had a particularly strong affinity for Egypt—due in part to Napoleon’s brief 1798 attempts at colonization and the influence of the savants. “If you were French,” Wall writes, “the east was Egypt, a place at the very limit of the European imagination … Egypt was the orient, a country of the mind, a grand theatre of sensuality, despotism, slavery, polygamy, cruelty, mystery and terror.” This Egypt of the mind had little reality outside the poetry of Keats and Shelley; the paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Emile Bernard, and André Duterte (whose painting of the ruined temple at Thebes may have been the basis for “Oxymandias”); and the oddly popular theories of the occultist Helena Blavatsky and her follower, the “wickedest man in the world,” Aleister Crowley. For the French, Egypt as a concept was far more exciting than Egypt as an actual place. (Though not to Flaubert; to him, Egypt was where he bedded nubile young women after watching them dance the popular striptease, “the bee.”)

Image: the great portrait by Kehinde Wiley


Many kids, when they first go off to college, are considered green in a way. But what if you went off to college just o be lucky enough to sit in a class taught by genius NYT columnist David Brooks?

According to its description, the course promises to explore “The premise that human beings are blessed with many talents but are also burdened by sinfulness, ignorance, and weakness,” as demonstrated by men such as Moses, Homer, and “others,” like maybe Paul Krugman. “I taught at Yale about six or seven years ago and at Duke since and really enjoyed it,” Brooks told Intelligencer, “so I was pleased to be able to do it again. I’m going to commute up Mondays and Tuesdays each week.”

But yes, he knows how it sounds. “The title of the Humility course is, obviously, intentionally designed to provoke smart ass jibes, but there’s actually a serious point behind it,”

I wish I was kidding about this, and I bet many of the kids at Yale do to. Brooks is the conservative many liberals love to love. But they should get real; Brooks is a tool. And probably a more dangerous one in that his rabid foam comes in colors and flavors that so many people find acceptable. Caveat discipulus.