“Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a question without meaning.  The term “nothing” relies for its meaning on the absence of “something.”  If there is no Something in existence, then there cannot be Nothing.  Put another way, we arrive at the notion of some primordial Absolute Nothing … [Read more...]

Facebook as Spandrel

Facebook as Spandrel  The roughly triangular space between the tops of two adjacent arches is called a spandrel.  Originating in Roman times, it was a nonfunctional result of the architecture until artists realized that they could fill these small areas with painted designs.  In a 1979 paper, … [Read more...]

The Case for Wonder: A Meditation

Perhaps it had no beginning.  Perhaps, being spacetime itself, it is neither where nor when.  Like the scarlet ribbons of song, it came “I will never know from where.”  Yet here I am, awake in this vast improbability for a nanosecond of cosmic time, a mote of life on a fleck of rock afloat in the … [Read more...]

Goodbye to Gramma Watchie

What happens as we try to come to terms with our past is that we see our lives as a process of continual disenchantment.  We long for the security provided by the comforting illusions of our youth.  We remember the breathless infatuation of first love; we regret the complications imposed by our … [Read more...]

The Launch of Apollo 11 (from The Dream of spaceflight)

Poised on the launch pad and towering thirty-six stories against the stars, the Apollo-Saturn rocket seemed unearthly in the wash of floodlight, glowing icy silver-white, like the moon above it.  A half-million pilgrims had made their way to the mosquitoed marshlands of Florida's Merritt Island, … [Read more...]

Wyn’s Laws

Law of the arts:  The better your work, the smaller your audience. Law of hindsight: No words will awaken the young to the brevity of their journey. First law of belief:  When you find the truth, you want to get yourself an outfit. Second law of belief:  The greater the ignorance, the greater … [Read more...]

Come Back, Shane! The National Nostalgia

[This appeared in the Southwest Review 98 (No. 1) 2013]   “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind.  It’s whatever you want it to be.”                                                                           … [Read more...]

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

It had been a dark and bitter year.  The war languished in Vietnam, students rioted around the globe, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo, a B-52 crashed carrying four hydrogen bombs, Chicago police battered demonstrators at the Democratic convention, Robert Kennedy … [Read more...]

The Nature of Nostalgia

  “The Atlantic Ocean was really somethin’ in those days.  Yes, you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”            ―Burt Lancaster as Lou, an aging ex-underworld figure sitting at a beachfront bar in Atlantic City.          After forty years, I rendezvous in a restaurant with a … [Read more...]

The Bomb

Leo Szilard had a dream.  As a boy in Budapest, reading H.G. Wells’ novel about a nuclear war that destroys most of Europe’s cities, he concluded that the world should be governed by a group of gifted scientists.  He envisioned the development of atomic energy as both a limitless power source and a … [Read more...]