Category Archives: Marginalia

This, Or A Warm Gun

“The teacher asked once what did we talk about when we talked about happiness. And then one student said that happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead […]

…And The Wisdom To Know The Difference

Here are two items from yesterday’s Washington Post email digest. They both mention, in passing, important things. First is this: Failure to stop Paris attacks reveals fatal flaws at heart of European security We read: Poor information-sharing among intelligence agencies, a threadbare system for tracking suspects across open borders and an unmanageably long list of […]

Plus Ça Change

Here’s Marcus Aurelius, writing about the Clintons: “To my mentor Fronto I owe the realization that malice, craftiness, and duplicity are the concomitants of absolute power; and that our patrician families tend for the most part to be lacking in the feelings of ordinary humanity.” – Meditations, Book 1 Related content from Sphere


John Stuart Mill: “It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear its imperfections, […]


There aren’t many public figures on the Left who irritate me the way the writer Chris Hedges always has. (Tim Wise is another.) Pallid, sneering, humorless, self-righteous, and full of that grotesque collectivist piety that has done more damage in the modern world than any other force of man or nature, the very sight of […]

Brood 3301

Here’s something that’s apparently been going on for a while now that I’m just hearing about: Cicada 3301. “The world is so full of a number of things; I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”   Related content from Sphere

Search Me!

In keeping with our ancient tradition, here’s this year’s selection from the searchphrases that brought readers to our doorstep in 2012: man in chicken suit flying on hang glider lwica lwica race map the boy who cried sheep thats a moray freedom go to hell ice tricks darkie toothpaste pelicans eating other birds no bikini […]

Too Bad ‘Chartwell’ Was Already Taken

Here’s an odd little story — a million maps found in a 948-square-foot cottage about to be torn down.


The Northeast has been enjoying a fantastic spell of weather lately. Here in the Outer Cape, today was simply perfect: low humidity, cloudless azure skies, warm sweet sunshine, and temperatures in the upper seventies, with a fragrant, balmy breeze as gentle as a baby’s breath. At Newcomb Hollow Beach, it felt more like August — […]

Oh, They Mean Her

I wonder how many of you this happens to: I see a headline like “Clinton To Announce New Special Envoy To Afghanistan And Pakistan“, and the Clinton that comes to mind is that taller one, the one who doesn’t really even have a job any more. I have a feeling that doesn’t just happen to […]

Thrills, Chills, Spills

Here’s a timely collector’s item, if you can find one. (Hat-tip to my colleague Yaniv Sarig.)

Who Knew?

Here’s an interesting item: Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson claims to have demonstrated conclusively that playing shoot-’em-up video games “increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior.” This is, of course, what various concerned sorts have been saying all along, although I had for some reason thought that the […]

No Hurry

lich: southern dialectal survival of O.E. lic “body, dead body, corpse,” cognate with O.Fris. lik, Du. lijk, O.H.G. lih, Ger. leiche “dead body,” O.N. lik, Dan. lig, Goth. leik, from P.Gmc. *likow. Related content from Sphere

Are We Alone?

Recent correspondence has called back to my attention a perfunctory little post from last April, which despite its brevity led to one of our longer and more entertaining comment-threads. Here. Related content from Sphere

Recall Their Mighty Deeds!

I’m slowly recovering from whatever it was I had — some sort of virus, I suppose, that triggered a general shutdown of major bodily and cognitive subsystems. Between that and a slip in the snow Thursday morning that caused fresh and debilitating damage to a recent orthopaedic injury, I have spent most of the past […]

It Is Balloon!

I have to say: YouTube is amazing. Here’s something for you music lovers “of a certain age”: a clip from the old TV series F Troop, in which the folks at Fort Courage were visited by a musical act calling themselves The Bedbugs. As it turns out, the leader and drummer of The Bedbugs are […]

Model Airplane

I’m old enough to remember Pan American World Airways, which throughout my early years was America’s foremost airline. I flew Pan Am on many occasions (including, once, all the way to Japan for a recording project), and through the misty lens of memory I recall the service and comfort being far superior to the cattle-car […]

No End In Sight

Here’s an Escheresque curiosity from the Web. I’m sure there is some simple trick to creating things like this, but I have no idea what it is.

Salisbury On The Hudson

If you are in New York City today, you can take in a twice-yearly astronomical phenomenon: Manhattanhenge. Learn more here.

Sheep Dip?

Here’s an odd little video clip, showing something or other having a swim in Lake Champlain.

Sky Show

If you enjoy this sort of thing, there will be rather a spiffy celestial display on Wednesday morning. Details here.

Fourth Out

For those of you who take an interest in our national pastime: a rare baseball oddity occurred this past Sunday, and our former skipper, Joe Torre, was at the heart of it. Read about it here, and watch the video here. Related content from Sphere

And Did Those Feet, In Ancient Times…

There’s an interesting little item in the news today: paleoanthropologists have found Homo Erectus footprints 1.5 million years old that record the earliest known example of anatomically modern human feet — feet that are designed solely (so to speak) for walking, and not for grasping. It is hard to imagine anything more evanescent than a […]

One Thing Leads To Another

I realize that this may have limited appeal for most of you, but I just can’t get enough of this sort of thing. At the very least, it’s further proof that there is something for everyone on the Web. Related content from Sphere

O Frabjous Day

This will be of zero interest to any of you, but in my little corner of Gotham the corks are popping. Here’s why.

You Never Know

It is always interesting to me to see which of these posts will generate comments, and which will not. Often a probing and painstakingly drafted essay on a subject of ancient and universal interest will attract no more notice than, say, an important scientific discovery or a bit of good news from Iraq; but dash […]

Fire and Ice

According to this story in today’s New York Times, Europe is looking to increased use of coal to meet its energy needs. As you might imagine, this news is not being received warmly by those who are concerned about levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, according to this item by Australian scientist-engineer Philip Chapman, we […]

The Price Is Right

From today’s CodeProject newsletter, here is an assortment of useful software that you can get for nothing.

Fortress of Solitude

There are a great many roadside oddities in America, often associated with equally odd people. One such dyad I’ve only just learned of is the Coral Castle, in Homestead, Florida. Related content from Sphere


Well, today is the first full day of winter, so it’s time for some spiritually uplifting and seasonally appropriate material. Have a look here.

Thar She Rots

I’ve learned a new word: whalefall. It refers to the effect of reduced buoyancy upon deceased cetaceans, and came up today in an interesting and educational context.

Due Respect

Zoologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins has become a household name lately — not because of his decades of creative academic work, and his outstandingly informative and accessible books on biology and the Darwinian paradigm, but because of his in-your-face denial of God — which has probably, on balance, earned him more enemies than supporters […]

Life Goes On

Readers of the New York Times will be familiar with Verlyn Klinkenborg, who contributes marvelous little essays to the editorial page. He lives on a small farm in upstate New York (“upstate” being a preposterously Gotham-centric term for the 97% of New York State that isn’t part of New York City or Long Island), and […]

Changing Places

I’m too lazy to write anything tonight, so it’s Hitchens to the rescue. No, not that Hitchens, but his brother Peter, who writes for the UK Sunday Mail. The item at hand deals with a pet peeve of my own: the pretentious and unnecessary revision of familiar place-names. In my day Ceylon has become Sri […]

The Secret? Keeping Busy

Which animals live the longest? That’s right: clams. And according to today’s newsletter, we have a new champion. Learn more here.

Wot’s All This, Then?

If you’re like me — and I have no reason to assume you aren’t — you’ve been wondering: what is it really like to be an English policeman, anyway? Well, wonder no more, thanks to the latest addition to our sidebar (courtesy of the estimable Deogulwulf): The Policeman’s Blog. Related content from Sphere


I must say this is certainly NOT how I imagined that the early days of October would be. Five weeks ago I scribbled a post in which I gave thanks that the summer’s sticky warmth was soon to give way to the clear cool days of autumn. “The most beautiful months of all”, I said. […]

Face Time

I’ve been working long hours this week, and have had scant leisure for thinking or writing. I hate to send you away empty-handed, though, after you’ve made the effort to check in, so here, courtesy of our friend The Stiletto, is an online test of your ability to remember names and faces. I actually did […]

Count Your Blessings

At least you aren’t a seven-legged, terminally constipated, hermaphroditic ruminant.

Ol’ Reliable

With a hat tip to Peter Hankins, today we take a look at a simple yet outstandingly accurate piece of meteorological technology: the Weather Stone.

Careful With That Kielbasa, Eugene

Well, I promised you all some froth, and here it is. Tonight we have, courtesy of my childhood friend Nick Nicholes, who now lives in a scenic vale in remotest Montana, a polka band that does Pink Floyd covers, and pretty well too. No quadrophonic mixes, though; you’ll just have to use your imagination. Related […]

Strange Bedfellows

With a tip of the hat to Dennis Mangan, here are some striking public-service posters from France, warning of the dangers of AIDS. Shocking, perhaps, to some, so caveat observator. As mentioned below, waka waka waka will be off the air until the weekend is over. We’ll be on the road, and I won’t have […]

No Parking Zone

As regular readers will know, I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a pleasant, attractive neighborhood of tree-lined streets and century-old townhouses the adjoins lovely Prospect Park. The area has had its ups and downs; when Nina and I moved here in 1982 the neighborhood was just emerging from many years of decline. During the Sixties and Seventies this was a pretty tough district — an Irish and Italian neighborhood with a lot of gangs and petty crime; during that era the handsome old buildings were neglected and often even abandoned. Since then, however, Park Slope has ridden the city’s rising tide of prosperity, and nowadays it’s a very affluent area, with upscale shops and restaurants, and the streets nowadays are full of attractive young couples pushing children in strollers. This is all very nice; certainly our own humble abode has appreciated gratifyingly since we took it over many years ago. But there is a dark side to all this American Dream stuff: you can’t find any place to park.

Barrel of Fun

Are you planning an elegant social function? An afternoon garden party, peut-être, or perhaps a genteel soirée to raise money for a new wing at the local art museum? Don’t call the caterers before you consult this online oracle.

Count Your Blessings

I don’t do a lot of recording these days; the music industry having gone through rough times in the 1990’s, I took up software engineering, and now make my living writing code. I still do two or three albums a year, though, and I am occasionally reminded of one of the other reasons I was inclined to switch careers: the hours can be grueling. Yesterday’s session at Avatar — a new album for my old friend, the guitarist Steve Khan — started at ten a.m., and when I left sometime after one in the morning, Steve was still wrapping up a few loose ends in Pro Tools with our assistant, Brian Montgomery.

This’ll Kill You

Well, if not, perhaps it will make you stronger.

The Nietzsche Family Circus.

Much Obliged, Jeeves

For you Wodehouse fans (count me as one), here’s a topical item from the New Yorker — brought to my attention, as are so many wondrous and faraway things, by my friend Jess Kaplan.

Stool Pigeon

Here’s a heartwarming little story, and a brief diversion from weightier matters: according to an item in Tuesday’s Daily Mail, visitors to London’s St. James Park were witnesses to an epic struggle as a pelican grappled with a pigeon. According to the report, it took the enterprising waterfowl twenty minutes to swallow its peristeronic snack, which fought vigorously to escape, but ended up, apparently still alive, in the larger bird’s belly.

in the wrong place

worth two in the bush    (photo: Cathal McNaughton)

And Now, Sports

Well, we finally made it to Michigan. We caught an 11:45 flight out of Gotham, and got to Ann Arbor in time to join the procession of the faithful down State Street to the Big House, which, just for the record, really is big — It is the largest American football stadium anywhere, and, according to this Wikipedia article, is the 29th-largest sports venue in the world (the larger ones are mostly racetracks). For today’s contest we were joined by 110,923 other spectators, and let me tell you, that’s a fair-sized crowd — numbering only slightly fewer than the population of Ann Arbor itself. And we were not disappointed; Michigan triumphed as expected, 20-6, even without the services of star wide receiver Mario Manningham, who is nursing a banged-up knee.

Too Pooped To Post

Just a few odds and ends for tonight; I’m whipped. Nocturnal recluse that I am, I’m still not used to this up-first-thing-in-the-morning business, and I’ve been averaging about four or five hours of sleep. By the time Friday rolls around all I can see is a great Eye, rimmed with fire.