Category Archives: Short piece

Three Little Words

“I don’t know’” There they are. The truest and most applicable sentence in the English language. The more certain you are as to the proper solution to most of life’s problems, the more likely you’re wrong. A persistent problem by its nature is difficult. Were an irritant easy to resolve it would be gone. People…


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Madness is a Feature, Not a Bug

“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” The sentence opens Rafael Sabatini’s novel Scaramouche. It’s also engraved on his tombstone. And it’s also true. Humans as the price for their exalted state of consciousness have been condemned by providence to eternal madness. The two are unalterably…


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On Safety

The current worldwide pandemic of insane terror is an interesting phenomenon. Never in human history has a period of unparalleled safety been accompanied by a rampant sense of florid insecurity. Until about a century ago, life for most people was short, oppressed, and impoverished. Then in a triumph of liberty, science, medicine, and capitalism life…


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Too Much

Winston Churchill remarked that a dominant characteristic of Germany and its people was a tendency to too much. I don’t think the great man was being fair to his Teutonic cousins as the trait seems universal, even more so with every change of the calendar. The descriptor seems to best apply to those parts of…


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On the Heat Death of the Universe

I dimly recall a talk by the critic and polymath George Steiner (1929-2020) worrying himself to near multiorgan failure about the consequences of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The law itself is much more complicated and limited than the way Steiner used it or as I am going to use it here. I’ll just say…


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Smaller Brains

The human brain is the most complex structure known. As human-like species evolved over several million years into homo sapiens, hominid brain size tripled. Today the average human brain weighs about three pounds. Our nearest primate relative, the chimpanzee, has a brain that weighs less than a pound. Our brains constitute about 2% of body…


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Met Opera Cancels Next 100 Seasons

Metropolitan Opera general Manager Peter Gelb announced that following this season the venerable company will take a century long sabbatical. The not unexpected action followed Anthony Tommasini’s likening of the current run of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s final opera Turandot to “anti-asian” hostility. Mr Tommasini, music critic for the New York Times, has pointed…


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On Good and Bad Service

The complexity of 21st century life has made bad service the rule and good the exception. In general, the larger the enterprise the worse the service. There is one screaming exception to this rule – Amazon. I’ll come back to them below. Good service is always the same. It is prompt, courteous, exceeds expectations, and…


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Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’ Funeral Oration was recorded, in an edited version, by Thucydides in book two of his History of the Peloponnesian War. The speech was delivered at the end of the first year of the war with Sparta – around 430 BC. It was an Athenian custom of the time to hold an annual commemorative event to…


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Spontaneous Order

Everywhere we look we are surrounded by orderly systems that arose spontaneously and continue to operate in the same way. The universe, regardless of how it started, operates according to rules that no matter their complexity are knowable and fixed. The laws of physics are unchangeable; it’s our understanding of them that’s subject to alteration….


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