Monday, September 30, 2013

That good old shock of the new

Everybody knows who Virginia Woolf and James Joyce are; we just don't read them. We haven't read what they read, either, and context and continuity count for a lot. Maybe that's why to us Florence Lawrence doesn't look like a movie star, Whispering Jack Smith doesn't sound like a pop idol, and Bob Hope just ain't funny. Maybe you're only ready to hear Sonny Rollins, Elvin Jones, and Wilbur Ware riff for almost a quarter hour on "What Is This Thing Called Love" after you've plugged a whole pocketful of nickels into a jukebox to hear Billie Holiday sing it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When life gives you melons, make an analogy.

The thing about cantaloupe is every once in a while you get one that is absolutely exquisite. No amount of thumping, thumb-pushing, or sniffing can predict when this will happen. You just open it up and it astounds you with its preposterous and unanticipated deliciousness. Some days are like that and in this way cantaloupes are sort of like life. However, in my experience no cantaloupe is so awful you can't imagine how you will get through the whole thing and you certainly don't look forward to ever starting another. In this way, cantaloupes are not like life at all.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Wodehouse version would be a hoot.

George Cayley was this English guy, the 6th Baronet of Bromptom. In 1853 he built a glider that was basically a kayak on wheels dangling under a big canvas kite the shape of a manta ray. He got his butler to sit in it and pushed it off a hill for a successful flight across Brompton Dale. If they made a biopic about this guy, he would fly it himself, but George Cayley was 79 years old at the time and also a Baronet, a level of social standing that exempts one from hurtling through the air in a canoe.

Monday, September 9, 2013


After you've eaten and tended to sanitation and hygiene, once you've gotten enough rest and taken a bit of moderate exercise, by the time you've seen to it that your financial obligations are taken care of, your social commitments fulfilled, your emotional entanglements properly lubricated, and your personal goals satisfactorily advanced upon, when you have devoted some time and energy to first determining and then acting upon your ethical obligations on the local, regional, and global levels, and given some thought to our shared fate in a vast and incomprehensible universe, it's difficult to find time to get anything done.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Oh the Humidity

Consider water, and its pervasive influence in our lives. For the most part it is a benign and even essential component of our day-to-day routines. It is an important element of one's bath. Goldfish require it. But the possibility of a deadly conflagration lies hidden in every molecule, in the form of the element Hydrogen, which makes up fully two-thirds of even the daintiest droplet. One need not describe the dreadful events of 8 May, 1937, at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Perhaps by substituting Helium, water could could be made safe. I leave it to Science to work out the details.