• How do Mexicans view race?

      Eduardo Porter, who describes himself as “the son of a tallish, white father from Chicago and a short, brown Mexican mother of European and Indian blood, wrote in the NY Times (Aug 11, 2008) about how differently race is viewed in Mexico, where he grew up, than in the USA. According to him: “Today […]

  • is race fact or fiction?

      Science has shown that there is no biological way to assign people to individual racial groups. Having originated in Africa and spread all over the globe, human beings share 99.8% of all their genes, the last 2% being for all human variation, not just race. Environment and culture have had a major impact on […]

  • the power of chocolate

      The BBC, on April 16, 2007, reported on experiments on the effects of melting chocolate in the mouth that showed increased brain activity and heart rate greater than from passionate kissing – and lasting 4 times as long. “Psychologist Sue Wright said: “Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which can raise levels of endorphins, the pleasure-giving substances, […]

  • still popular pilgrimage

      The pilgrimage tour continues today. The most popular continues to be the Compostela route. Every year, more than two hundred thousand follow the ancient route on foot, from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela on Spain’s most westerly coast.  Some do it for religious reasons but many for sport or the challenge or as […]

  • miraculous “small world” update

      As preamble, I need to mention that our female horseback riding guide in Belize, the podiatrist’s tie-dyed wife, complained at length about her ex for the five days we spent together. She described her former husband as detestable, having lost a bitter child-custody struggle with him. A furniture maker, the man made the comfortable, […]

  • more on travel v. tourism

      Much have been written on this question. One of my favorite explications of the difference is Paul Fussell’s essay “From Exploration to Travel to Tourism” in his book Abroad, published in 1980. Fussell has the history wrong, writing that “exploration belongs to the Renaissance, travel to the bourgeois age, tourism to our proletarian moment”—apparently, forgetting […]

  • what is the jungle’s allure?

      Henri Rousseau was a tax collector and self-taught painter who never left Paris and never saw a jungle, taking inspiration instead from Paris’ hothouse botanical gardens. “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands,” he was quoted as saying, “it seems to me that I enter […]

  • why children prefer a facsimile

      Perhaps children prefer a facsimile because it offers a sense of control over a frighteningly diverse world. Most of us, in fact, not only children, cannot resist a simulacrum. This is one reason why many adults prefer the very cleaned up version of Epcot’s London or Las Vegas’s Egypt to the real thing. Certainly, there is an irresistible charm […]

  • the towers’ purpose?

      The guidebooks’ bizarre explanations that I came across when writing “Misguided” were not much clarified by my follow-up research. What does Wikipedia have to say? Not very much. The site mentions that the Guelphs and Ghibellines conflict and family rivalries “resulted in families building tower houses of increasing height…. The rivalry was finally restrained […]

  • the flat earth myth’s appeal

      Scholars are clear that the earth’s true shape was never lost. It is well established that educated people, from at least the 14th century on, recognized sphericity. Since the curvature of the planet is visible during an eclipse and during sea travel, this is not surprising. What is surprising, is that the myth was routinely […]

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