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Category Archives: Culture

Tribes of Europa

One of my peskiest chores is scouring through the vast number of what I call “watchables” available for streaming to find something that suits my taste. Clearly my taste is strange, because there’s so little that suits it. Why do so many people want to watch stories that are set in places just like the […]

Who, and what, deserve our attention now?

If you ask me, boring government is the best kind of government, though, judging by the grin on his face, Biden is far from bored by rides on Marine 1. White House photo. Scott Rosenberg has a very good article at Axios this morning: After Trump, the attention economy deflates. Rosenberg writes, “Donald Trump used […]

Let’s hear it for the wobble

Illustration from An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics Surely one of the coolest things about this planet is that it wobbles on an annual cycle. That causes the intensity of the sun to be about half as great in midwinter as it is in midsummer. The result is that life at most latitudes had to evolve […]

Our own fresh taste of the 14th Century

The Covid-19 virus. Source: Wikipedia By historical standards, this plague has been a mild one. So far, worldwide, about 2.3 million people have died from Covid-19. The most fatal pandemic in recorded history was the Black Death, which peaked in Europe between 1347 and 1351. The Black Death killed between 75 million and 200 million […]

Horowitz in Russia

In 1986, near the end of the Cold War, Vladimir Horowitz, then 82 years old, agreed to return to the Soviet Union for concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. The performance was recorded on video. PBS’ Great Performances draws on this historic video for the documentary “The Magic of Horowitz,” which was broadcast on Jan. 22. […]

Eat more barley ( … and sugar cake)

Barley risotto I sometimes hear the voice of Michael Pollan in my head: “Eat more leaves.” To that I might add: Eat more barley. Wheat, of course, will always be regarded as the monarch of grains, because we can make beautiful breads out of it. But for second place, I would nominate barley — humble, […]

Mincemeat pie

Mincemeat pie is not part of my heritage (Southern American), so I disclaim all expertise and experience having to do with it. Not only did I never have mincemeat pie as a child, I don’t remember ever hearing about it. As an adult, I was not curious about making it, just because the name is […]


Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Divination. Edited by N.M. Swerdlow. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1999. 378 pages. Babylonia: A Very Short Introduction. Trevor Bryce. Oxford University Press, 2016. 142 pages. I confess that I don’t find the history of Babylonia very interesting. But I think there’s a reason for that. It’s that we don’t […]

The English Game

“The English Game” is the most recent production from Julian Fellowes, who brought us “Downton Abbey.” It was produced by Netflix, premiered last March, and is available for streaming. The game is football, which we Americans call soccer. The themes, as with “Downton Abbey,” are class conflict, class reconciliation, and social change. The story begins […]

Life in Squares

I would have to watch this BBC mini-series at least twice to have any hope of following it. Those who have recently read up on the members of the Bloomsbury Group, or who have recently read a biography of Virginia Woolf, might be able to keep up a bit better. Still, it’s great fun to […]