How Efficiency Replaced Beauty and Stole Our Souls

Above the treetops and pitched roofs of our clean, sweet little town, a giant bobble sits atop stilts. I see it from our window, and I would not blame beer-soaked teenagers if they climbed up (careful, though!) to adorn the thing with graffiti. Anything would be an improvement. Now Waterloo (its name rendered a pun […]

Shipwreck Emerges Yet Again

    Every few years the Mississippi at St. Louis drops enough to reveal the wreck of a WWII minesweeper, the USS Inaugural, lying in a few feet of water, next to the Missouri shore. How it came to be there is a strange story, well worth reading. The River is relatively low now, so […]

The Korean War: The Chinese Remember, While Americans Forget

  I have learned that the highest-grossing film in China is The Battle at Lake Changjin (the Chinese name for the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir), a film about China’s entry into the Korean War, which coincided with one of America’s worst military defeats in the winter of 1950-1951. The Korean War (1950-1953) is largely […]

Slime Ball

Stretching, squishing, popping, poking. . . . we are coping with the stress of the apocalypse by playing with slime. There are billions of #slime views on TikTok and YouTube and an array of slime products for sale online: Witches Brew slime for Halloween, Spooky dense butter slime, Elmer’s Fruity Slushie slime (foam beads that […]

James Bond Rides Again

    I saw No Time to Die yesterday. The much-publicized Lashana Lynch’s turn as the Black 007 was just a bit of PC tokenism. She was a sidekick, and a second-rate one at that, not even offering the hero a comic foil that might have impressed an audience. (This criticism has nothing to do […]

Island Wisdom

    For us mainlanders, islands are vehicles for nervous jokes (how would we survive if stranded on one?) or wild fantasy (Gauguin, fleeing to his sexy tropical paradise). The developed world patronizes anyone who chooses to live cut off from urban convenience and absorbed in a culture all their own. We picture the carefree […]

The Many Incarnations of the Bookmobile

    A dinner conversation turned to favorite childhood books, and from there to the bookmobile. Everyone else rhapsodized about how much fun it was to clamber onto that library-as-bus and pick out your books. I shuddered and stared at my broccoli. I dreaded those class trips to the bookmobile. It felt like all my […]

Trucks Put to Other Use

    Of course a city garbage truck—big, dangerous, smelly—was the big hit at the local Touch a Truck event today, and both kids and parents enthused over it. My younger son had volunteered to help staff the event, and it was one of our first cold mornings of the fall in St. Louis. When […]

First Step Across A Line

  “How far, in any case, must one go back to find the beginning?” —WG Sebald, After Nature   I know someone who used to say, at key life-moments: I’m going to just [do this one thing], and we’ll see what happens. If you looked downstream from that first step, it always proved to have […]