Random Selections from the Blog

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At 60 you’re just getting started?

Posted February 2nd, 2012
At 60 you're just getting started?

The morning of January 28 dawned bright and mild. At 11:00, doors would open to the party we had planned for ourselves to celebrate my 60th, my Dear One’s 78th, the 2nd anniversary of our marriage and my Tattooed Boy’s 30th, and all of which fall with a month’s span, give or take a couple…

WWI: Belle Skinner’s Passion

Posted October 26th, 2011
WWI: Belle Skinner’s Passion

The visitor’s guide to Hattonchâtel opens with a discussion of geology established 150 million years ago as rivers cut down through soft strata leaving limestone bluffs to tower over the plain, a perfect natural fortification and a position that provides gorgeous views to each of the compass points. Its “modern” history dates to the ninth…

Goodnight, Irene! What a Mess!

Posted October 7th, 2011
Goodnight, Irene! What a Mess!

Pay attention, folks. We are trashing the world and hurricanes and the ensuing floods are throwing it back at us. Making a wreck of our world is not like making a wreck of our childhood bedrooms—Mother Nature, unlike our own mothers, cannot pick up the garbage we strew and municipal, county, state and federal services…

Westminster Quarters

Posted November 9th, 2009

Theo was not pleased. She parked herself in the doorway to the office, as though following instructions about seeking safety during an earthquake. Her tail locked around her legs and her yellow eyes gleamed disapproval. I wasn’t quite sure what the noise was. It sounded like an industrial-weight vacuum cleaner but the roar—not that I…

The Eternal City 2: Turisti Stare Attenti

Posted April 22nd, 2014
The Eternal City 2: Turisti Stare Attenti

It’s not quite caveat emptor but the idea is similar. Tourism is primarily—the primary?—source of income in Rome. Spontaneity, a commendable trait, is likely to exacerbate that leak in your wallet. Rome seems just as problematic as when “Bear Leaders,” those approximate experts, squired their “Cubs,” the newest arrivals, around Rome in the 18th century…

Based in Batignolles 7: Bienvenue et Adieu

Posted July 1st, 2017
Based in Batignolles 7: Bienvenue et Adieu

Inbound from Charles de Gaulle-Roissy airport, all had gone smoothly until we were in a taxi headed into Paris—at a crawl. The traffic was simply horrific, as bad as anything I have experienced from route 128 outside Boston to any freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles. Our plane arrived at 8:00 am and around…


Posted February 10th, 2010

It is not that there is nothing to do; indeed, there is far too much that needs to be done. I need to reconfigure class schedules to deal with days lost to snow, to write lectures for classes starting in less than two weeks, to sort through messes on tables and boxes still unpacked almost…

BRAVO’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist”

Posted June 18th, 2010

So far I have successfully resisted the bait dangled by all the reality shows. Tribal hostilities, The Donald’s flunky-wannabees, housewives, litters of children, none of these strikes me as entertainment. BRAVO got me, though, with “The Next Great Artist.” I might have watched it anyway because as an art historian I actually have some interest…

An English Wedding 6: The Butler and I

Posted September 24th, 2010
An English Wedding 6: The Butler and I

It was in Bath that we changed Nüvi’s voice from Daniel to Serena. I had favored Daniel, English-accented and resonant; besides, I am sentimentally attached to the name. Serena, we had heard was the best voice, the most audible and the most authentically human. It’s true. Her voice is pleasant in pitch, cuts through noises…

The Eternal City 4: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men”

Posted April 24th, 2014
The Eternal City 4: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an' men”

The Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-96) was commiserating with a tiny rodent whose world has been discombobulated by human activity in his poem To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785) and left posterity with this wonderful verse that has since become cliché. But, Mousie, thou art no thy…