• 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 […]

  • Why are smells so hard to recall?

      The sense of smell has a conflicting relationship to memory: the memories it evokes are the most intense and emotional, while scent itself is so elusive as to seem beyond memory. Proust may have been the first person to describe the phenomenon of scent/taste-induced memory, a memory so complete that it feels like the […]

  • wine cellars and mortality

      One of the essential appeals of “laying down” wine is that you can buy it when it is young and relatively inexpensive, after which it can sit in your cellar aging and taking on value. Over the years, you can chortle at the high price a wine is fetching— in a wine store or […]

  • ‘butterfly’: a linguistic anomaly

      How can we account for the world-wide variety in word ‘butterfly’? The most interesting essay on this linguistic mystery comes from William O. Beeman, of the Dept of Anthropolgy, Brown University, 2000: The Elusive Butterfly. He notes that since the 19th century, “one of the bedrock principles of linguistic analysis” has been that most words […]

  • Why the butter in ‘butterfly?

      Whether it is their metamorphosis, their vibrant colors, their gentle fluttering, their beauty, something about butterflies touches our imaginations. They transcend our negative associations about insects and seem more fairies than bugs. Perhaps this accounts for the great variety of names for butterfly in different languages. The “monarch” was named by a 19th century […]

  • faint hope for the Monarchs

      The Monarch figures for 2017 were released in February: down 1/3 from the previously year, which was only slightly better than the figures for 2014 and 2013, the lowest in at least 20 years, a decline of more than 80% in recent decades. According to a report in the New York Times by Michael Wines there […]

  • why can’t I appreciate wine?

      I am a good cook and have a reasonably good palate. But I’ve never been able to identify very many flavors in wine and can never remember any of them. This has always been something of a mystery to me. Scent, like music, which I also can’t remember, seems totally ephemeral to me. It […]

  • the 7 Wonders: lost and found

      By the end of the Roman Era, all the Wonders except the pyramids had disappeared and only the idea of a List of Seven Wonders survived. For several hundred years no record existed of the original list’s makeup, though new lists continued to be developed. In the early 1500s, after Antipater’s poem had come […]

  • the tradition of blood feuds

      From a distance, a blood feud—in which two families commit to decades of mutual hate and revenge killing—seems like a form of madness. In America, it became a famous bit of our early history through its appearance in literature; or did it make it into literature because it was so famous? The Hatfield and McCoy feud, at the […]

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