Harvest Boon

I love this time of year. I love having both the sun and the chill in the air, the musky scent of dead leaves and blessed, blessed school. I like having the kids out of the house for a prescribed amount of time each day. I like being alone in my house listening to loud […]

Famous, but not a Grouse

A colleague likes to talk about the Ivy League football games he went to as a graduate student at Harvard. Apparently they did not sing the Tom Lehrer Harvard fight song (“Wouldn’t it be peachy if we won the game …”); in fact, the crowd’s invective sounds as though it was scarcely more subtle than […]

Small Plates, Big Egos

We all have to eat, but do we have to obsess about it? Hell’s Kitchen is a top-ten, prime-time show, Ratatouille is teaching our kids to rhapsodize over crème brûlée, and the Food Network force-feeds us celebrity chefs 24/7. There’s a story going around about a teacher who asked her class to list words describing […]

Pinot Noir for the Masses

Archaeologists have all the fun. Mere historians spend their summers sweating over hot computers while those on expeditions get fresh air and exercise, often in agreeable places. I have just heard from a student who is spending great swaths of his summer making a new map of the Boundary Waters. There are less pleasant ways […]

The Poop on Perky

Never Google yourself. You might find something you don’t like, and it might bum you out. I’m saying this, of course, because that is exactly what I did, and exactly what happened. I wish I were a stronger person than I am, but I’ve been thinking about this random critique from this random guy ever […]

Liquid Incense

I must say I have never understood what the Playboy bunnies saw in Dr. Kissinger. Perhaps they’re professionally equipped to detect charm and wit where mere men miss it. Who knows, the long fluffy ears may contain hidden sensors programmed to relay subtle messages to secondary brains located in the bunnies’ gluteal powder puffs, which, […]

The Language of Lunge

There’s no love lost between me and the cat that lives in our house. She’s not really my cat; I bought her for one of the kids a while back. There had been a specific Christmas wish for a white kitten with a red ribbon round its neck. I had worked a lot of overtime […]

Fresh Pink Innocence

End-of-term gifts from one’s pupils are a recurrent pleasure of professorial life. Like the boarding-school boy who thanked the aunt for the bottle of cherries pickled in brandy, one enjoys them not only for themselves but also for the spirit in which they are given. Only once have I been given an apple (and then […]

The Problem with Positive Thinking

Because I am writing this column almost two months before it will show up in print, we can have ourselves a little scientific experiment. See, I just read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, a book designed to help me tap my hidden personal powers, and I’m going to think convincing thoughts in order to test […]

Echoes of the Empire

I shall spend a lot of this summer reading Polybius. The rise and fall of empires is in the air, and Polybius is the most coherent historian of the rise of Rome—not least because he was a Greek and smart. When Polybius describes how the Roman general Titus Flaminius accomplished his mission in the Second […]