‘+’ or ‘-’ and sometimes ‘+/-’

Only twelve humans have ever touched the surface of another galactic sphere. One of them, Astronaut Charlie Duke, once gave a homily to my high school chapel. While one might have expected Duke to deliver a cliché “you can reach for the skies” exhortation to my pimple-faced coevals, he instead shared a fascinating disquisition on experience.   It was really neat. (This cheap modifier will make sense later.)   Mr. Duke surely did not intend to deliver an existentialism lecture that would straighten Jean-Paul Sartre’s eyeballs, but that’s about what happened. Duke attempted to convey the breathtaking phenomenon of standing on the lunar landscape and beholding our own Little Blue Planet floating in the celestial foreground.   He explained that after he set the record for a lunar surface stay—more than 70 hours—he returned to Earth. And found himself really bored.   Duke was mired in a thick, intergalactic-postpartum funk. After all, once one has driven a dune buggy on the moon’s rough Cayley Plains, what else is there to do? (Other than bed Eva Longoria.)   There was actually a positive end to Mr. Duke’s…

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The Day I Touched Cocoa the Gorilla

A long time ago in a college far, far away, I was an anthropology major at a conservative Christian college in Minnesota.  I owe the discipline of anthropology my life, as it transformed me from being a Pharisee among Pharisees to the “adjusted human being” that I am today.   My most memorable ‘anthropological moment’ came in my junior year when my beloved professor, Dr. James P. Hurd, took my class to Como Zoo to “visit the apes” for a Physical Anthropology field trip.  I imagine that most of my readers have never been up close and personal to any large primates (unless they happen to know any SEC offensive linemen).  We were “taken below” to the feeding level, and each of us had the opportunity to make literal contact with the gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees which stared at us mournfully from beyond their barred containment.   I straggled behind the group in order to have more intimate contact with my distant relations from whom I had been disconnected for several million years.  At one point, I found myself standing completely alone with a gargantuan silverback gorilla named Cocoa.   We stared at each other inquisitively, and for a moment I…

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Thanksgiving Day Tribute to Sarah Hale: Feminist, Bane of Presidents & Turkeys

  Today when you utter her name, turkeys all across the Fruited Plain run for cover. Yet during Sarah Josepha Buell Hale’s lifetime, it was U.S. Presidents who stuck their heads in the sand when they saw one of her frequent epistolary missives sticking out of a White House mailbag.   When you raise your first glass of wine at today’s Thanksgiving Table, raise it to one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century—a person who wasn’t allowed to cast a ballot during her lifetime—a woman without whom you wouldn’t be enjoying your Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, your 12:30 matchup between the Lions and the Packers, or your Bakers Square French silk pie (you Minnesotans are so damned lucky!).   A TOAST TO SARAH HALE!   Hell, drink an entire carafe of cabernet in her honor. (After all, I have while writing this.)   To be honest, I’m somewhat shocked the United States has yet to strike Sarah Hale’s visage upon a coin (with a can of cranberries on the reverse side). Without her indefatigable efforts, not only would we not have Thanksgiving Day, but we would also be absent “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”…

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