• 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, […]

  • 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 […]

  • the origin of Romeo and Juliet?


      When I wrote the essay, Misguided, I assumed the Romeo and Juliet story was fictional. But when I looked into the matter, I found a lot of confusion. Wikipedia doesn’t answer the question but its information does help explain why the guide books were confused. Of the several plays that predate Shakespeare’s (which was written […]

  • how basic knowledge gets lost


      Since the Trump election, we have woken up to the prevalence and danger of  fake news in America. Carefully designed to warp public opinion and spread by social media using high tech analytics, it has become a major threat to our democracy. Huge segments of the population no longer trust in expert opinion, even in logic. But this […]

  • why the Pisa tower leans?


      As for the Tower of Pisa’s tilt, Wikipedia is explicit on the cause: an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The theory of the intentional tilt seems to be as crazy as you might think. Some of the guidebooks’ confusion, however, might be attributed to […]

  • you’re not like your parents? really?


      Psychologists would say that we naturally identify with our parents, either modeling ourselves on them or establishing independent identities by choosing the opposite path. The perfect example of conscious rejection is the 1980’s TV series, Family Ties, starring Michael J. Fox as the hyper-conservative son who mocks the liberal values of his baby boomer […]

  • whither the “generation gap”?


      Hippie gurus and tie-dyed bell-bottoms are history. The police are no longer pigs. Crunchy granola has lost its claim on virtue. Has the generation gap also gone the way of all things sixties? Having lived through the era, I assumed that every generation was doomed to be cut off from the next by dint […]


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