Archive for the ‘Fun’ category

If You Need A Break (I Do)

June 10, 2016

Here’s some utterly non-political awesomeness with which to launch the weekend:

My regret:  the strandbeests came to Massachusetts last fall — the MIT campus even! — and I didn’t manage to see them in action.


A Moment’s Respite

March 22, 2016

Seems to me that we could all use just a moment of something else to think about.  So here’s a bit of pure fun, in the Be-Wary-Of-The-Smiling-Stranger category:

I just love the opponent’s reaction at the end.

Don’t know about you, but I welcome a human exchange that didn’t involve explosions or Republicans.

Pantry Sniffing

July 4, 2014

With a h/t to a valuable science-Twitterer and all-round good guy/researcher, Jonathan Eisen, here’s something for the curious among us to aspire to when next you contemplate cleaning out your larder:

Kew mycologists Bryn Dentinger and Laura Martinez-Suz have discovered three species of mushrooms that are new to science in a commercial packet of dried Chinese porcini purchased from a shop in London.


Who knows what species lurks in the bowels of cupboards?

The mushroom-hunters know!

With that, I’ll announce my very scattered return from my  off-grid mountain fastness. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been looking at to the exclusion of paying attention to anything any right wing asshole has to say:

Shasta from Inspiration Point June 29 2014 edited, small

That’s Mt. Shasta from Inspiration Point in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

You won’t, alas, see much difference from my total absence to my likely near-complete silence going forward:  I’m desperate to get a big project done before the next equinox and I find if I try to organize my thoughts around the midden that is our politics right now, I lose whole days to rage.  But I’ll try to show up, and even more, to offer the occasional chewy post.  For now, though — random bits of the delightful weirdness of the world are all my style.

Happy Fourth, all.

Image: Jan Flyt, Mushrooms, first half of the 17th century.


For Good Times In Cambridge: Fallows/Kummer and Merry White Distant Early Warning

December 2, 2013

Good stuff coming up this Thursday, Dec. 5.

First off:  I’ll be introducing The Atlantic’s James Fallows and Corby Kummer at the last MIT Communications Forum event of the year.  It’ll run from 5-7 in MIT building 66, room 110. (Map at the link.)

Fallows you all know, I think.  He’s been national correspondent at The Atlantic since forever, with a stint at Jimmy Carter’s head speechwriter thrown in.  He’s covered an enormous range of stories from a great range of places — Washington, Shanghai, Beijing,  and any civil aviation landing strip he can find.  Politics, flight, international relations, China-watching, beer and much more.  He’s a National Magazine Award and American Book Award winner.  Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he has shepherded many of its signature pieces from wisp in a writer’s eye to publication.  (He’s also one of America’s leading food writers, winner of 5 James Beard Journalism awards including one my previous post would suggest I find most impressive, the M. F. K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

Here’s what the two of them will talk about: “Long Form Journalism: Inside The Atlantic.”


The session will focus on two questions: what goes into the making of a major piece of journalism.  First: what’s required to conceive, report, develop, refine, fix, verify, and then, finally, produce a long piece of writing that can both demonstrate the proposition and persuade its readers of its truth and importance.  Second: why such journalism matters (and, perhaps, some commentary on the curious fact that despite the internet’s supposed slaughter of attention, long form non-fiction seems it be entering something of a golden age.)

This will be videotaped, and I’ll post the clip and/or links to same when it goes live (and I  know that I’ve still got to get the promised Coates-Hertzberg video ready to roll…)  But if you’re in town on Thursday, this should be a good one.  We’ll probably be focusing on a single, maybe a couple of signature Fallows articles that went under Kummer’s watchful eye, and as I find out the texts, I’ll post those links in my next reminder.

The other event that Greater-Cambridge folks might want to check out is a truly happy book event for one of my oldest and dearest friends, Merry “Corky” White, (my college tutor, as it happens), whose classic Cooking for Crowds (illustrated by Koren!) is being re-iussed in a 40th anniversary edition.


She’ll be talking the book at Harvard Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Thursday — and I’ll be dashing as fast as I can from 02139 to 02138 to cheer her on.  If you can, you should too.  (No media for this one, alas.)

BTW: here’s the Amazon link to Corky’s book — but in the spirit of time, place and season, get it at Harvard Books if that’s near you, or from and the independent bookstore you normally use if you’re one of the lucky ones to still possess such a community treasure.

Images: Mary Cassat, Woman Reading in a Gardenbefore 1926

Jan Steen, Feast of the Rhetoricians Near a Town Gate, before 1679

Not All Harvard Cocktail Parties Are A Waste of Time

October 7, 2013

We can’t just live on a diet of alternating snark and rage at the feral Republican children trying to burn down the House.  Rather, we could — but that’s like suffering the health effects of a day-after-day Super Size Me diet of political high fructose corn starch and a bucket of Krispy Kreme’s — and I, at least, need some happier stuff from time to time just to remind me that the world isn’t simply a playground for the worst of us.

Hence this delightful tale, via my science writing friend David Dobbs, who led to this gem from David Quigg, proprietor of the Two Many Daves blog. The link takes you to a post ostensibly about Quigg’s ongoing pursuit of Ernest Hemingway’s FBI file — in which he’s making progress, but still faces G-manned roadblocks between him and what he really wants to know.

Quigg (deliberately, I suspect) buried the lede.  Hemingway’s a side show.  The really sweet tale he’s managed to extract from the Great Redactor introduces a new character, Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley.  Shapley had a mixed record as an astronomer — he picked the wrong side in the famous Curtis-Shapley debate on whether or not the spiral nebula that had been observed by 1920 lay inside or outside our Milky Way galaxy, and he rather unfortunately thought Edwin Hubble had committed junk science.  But he had the right enemies.  A political liberal and friend of Henry Wallace, he was targeted by Joe McCarthy,* which is what landed him in the FBI files that Quigg received.

Seeing a now rather obscure name in the history of astronomy turn up in the file led Quigg to the magical Google machine — and that’s where this story goes from curious to great:

According to Dr. Shapley, he and Frost met at an annual faculty get-together during one of Frost’s stints as poet-in-residence at Harvard. Frost sought Shapley out, tugged at his sleeve–figuratively, if not literally–and said something like, “Now, Professor Shapley. You know all about astronomy. Tell me, how is the world going to end?” [1] Taken aback by this unconventional approach, Shapley assumed Frost was joking. The two of them chatted for a few moments, but not about the end of the world. Then they each became involved in conversations with other people and were soon in different parts of the room. But a while later, Frost sought out Shapley again and asked him the same question. “So,” said Shapley to his audience in 1960, “I told him that either the earth would be incinerated, or a permanent ice age would gradually annihilate all life on earth.” Shapley went on to explain, as he had earlier explained to Frost, why life on earth would eventually be destroyed by fire or ice.


“Imagine my surprise,” Shapley said, “when just a year or two later, I ran across this poem.” He then read “Fire and Ice” aloud. He saw “Some say” as a reference to himself–specifically to his meeting with Frost at that gathering of Harvard faculty.

I should add that the anecdote comes from Tom Hansen, who recalls hearing Shapley lecture about (inter alia) his conversation with Frost.  Hansen doesn’t dispute Shapley’s memory of the encounter, but he does point out that the poem itself is not a versification of cosmology, and hence, that Shapley’s puff of pride at his muse’s role is very likely (IMHO too) misplaced.

In any event one may — I do — kvell at the thought of those two mutual incomprehensibles sipping sherry whilst thinking such different thoughts fashioned out of the same words.

Beats trying to deal with the Repblican’s Boehner problem, that’s for sure.

*Shapley’s line on McCarthy’s accusations:  “the Senator succeeded in telling six lies in four sentences, which is probably the indoor record for mendacity.”  Not bad for an ivy covered professor, I’d say.

Image:  Francisco Goya, The Snowstorm (Winter), 178-1787. (This is a bit of Goya juvenalia, as far as I’m concerned — but even before Goya became GOYA, he still could paint a bit, wouldn’t you say?)

Oh Yes, Please! Please, Please, Please!

January 4, 2013


Come on, Deval.  You know you want to:

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), whose 32 year career in the House of Representatives came to an end yesterday, said Friday that he’s told Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) that he would welcome an interim appointment to the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

Frank said that the fiscal cliff deal that passed the House of Representatives earlier this week and set the stage for a return to the same legislative fight in a matter of months “means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months” for the American economy….

“I’m not going to be coy. It’s not anything I’ve ever been good at,” Frank said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ve told the governor that I would now like, frankly, to do that because I would like to be a part of that. It’s only a three-month period. I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again.”

If this happens, it will be proof that the Flying Spagetti Monster is a kind and generous fiction.  I can’t believe I’ve been good enough to merit a benison* such as this.

*Yes, that does raise images of rack of benison, but this is a family show, so I’m not going there.¤

¤And yeah, I would pick your pocket.

Image: Francisco de Zurbarán, St. Francis in Meditation, 1635-1639.

Friday Fun: Photographs for the demented 9 year old image nut

July 31, 2009

Check this image out….

And then this one

And then go play with the entire set….

And by the way, you’re welcome.😉

P.S.:  For the politically minded among you…start here.