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Rob Hardy: The black legend of Prince Rupert's dog

Posted 9/7/2011 in Columns

You may have read or seen the movie about Marley, "The World's Worst Dog." Marley, at least, was just a dog, and those whom he troubled might have had to suffer torn belongings and other messes. Marley was a piker at "worstness" though; he did not speak all the languages of Satan, for instance, and he could not change his shape into that of a seductive woman, and he could not render himself and his master invisible.

 

Rob Hardy: Darwin the writer

Posted 9/7/2011 in Columns

Reading "On the Origin of Species" is not like reading any other revolutionary scientific work. Even Richard Feynman said he couldn't get through all of Newton's "Principia," and there are few but specialists who get through Einstein's main papers. Part of the difference, of course, is that Darwin was dealing with biology, a science whose myriad subjects are as close to us as ourselves.

 

Rob Hardy: 'Aaaaw to Zzzzzd'

Posted 8/5/2011 in Columns

My guess is that you have already heard birds singing sometime today. I am not a birdwatcher, but you don't have to be one to notice that birds fit in all around us, and there are few environments, urban or rural, that are not enlivened by birdsong.

 

Rob Hardy: The life of Evel Knievel

Posted 7/29/2011 in Columns

Everybody knew who Evel Knievel was in his heyday. He made a living doing dangerous things, and had a knack for making them into spectacles that the whole world paid attention to.

 

Rob Hardy: Red Summer

Posted 7/25/2011 in Columns

We have had the occasional flare-up of mass racial violence in the past few decades. We have had nothing like the summer of 1919, when there were riots and lynchings in many large American cities, and countless episodes of violence in smaller ones.

 

Rob Hardy: George Washington Carver

Posted 6/21/2011 in Columns

George Washington Carver has been pigeonholed by history. He plays two roles. He is first, the man who advocated peanut farming and invented all sorts of uses for the crop; we even go so far as to give him credit for inventing peanut butter, which he never did nor claimed to have done.

 

Rob Hardy: The Lady Anatomist

Posted 6/13/2011 in Columns

In the gothic thriller "The Mysteries of Udolpho" (1794), the mysteries consist of distinguishing the real from the supernatural, and one of the scary visions seen by the heroine Emily was a body in grave clothes, being eaten by worms. She really saw it, and the author reflects, "On such an object, it will be readily believed, that no person could endure to look twice." Is it a horrific supernatural vision, or is it a mere waxwork?

 

Hardy: Pox

Posted 6/7/2011 in Columns

The generations that had had smallpox vaccination scars upon their arms are dying off. That scar might have served as something like a passport to get them into a new country, or it might have allowed them to enter school.

 

Rob Hardy: The Most Human

Posted 5/17/2011 in Columns

You say you are a human. Now, prove it. Wait, wait -- it's too easy to point to your face or to perform a tap dance as you sing "Bicycle Built for Two." That will not do at all.

 

Rob Hardy: Inside jokes

Posted 5/16/2011 in Columns

Anywhere in the world, if you are in a group of people chatting, you will find yourself or find someone else talking in a way to attempt to produce laughter in those listening. It seems to be hardwired behavior for us, because it happens in every society we know. Not only do amateur humorists aim to bring laughter to others, professionals can get paid to do so, and the payment comes from people who buy tickets because they so value the laughter experience.

 

Rob Hardy: Faulkners of Mississippi

Posted 5/14/2011 in Columns

Everyone acknowledges now that William Faulkner was one of the greats in American literature, but like many writers, he had more than his share of flaws. Any biography will tell you about his depressions, alcoholism, and affairs, and "Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi" (Crown) touches on all of these dark areas.

 

Rob Hardy: Ancient Graffiti

Posted 4/11/2011 in Columns

Go through any city and you will find graffiti written on any available surface. The stuff we see nowadays is usually spray-painted, and while some of it is just stupid and offensive, some has real artistry and style. Graffiti, of course, was not invented along with the spray can. It could famously be found on the walls of Pompeii, and also in Rome and in Egypt, and just about everywhere else in the ancient world.

 

Rob Hardy: Moby Duck

Posted 4/6/2011 in Columns

The dazzling "Moby Dick" is not simply about whaling. Melville's grand and exhilarating volume is about good and evil, nature, the futility and magnificence of human endeavor, and literature itself, to list just a few subjects.

 

Rob Hardy: Hollywood Sign

Posted 3/29/2011 in Columns

One of the mistakes in movies I always find funny is the opening scene where the director wants to set a locale in the mind of the viewer, so he might place the words "Washington, D.C." at the bottom of the screen, while at the same time showing the capitol or the Washington Monument, making such a caption unnecessary.

 

Rob Hardy: Stolen World

Posted 2/23/2011 in Columns

When you consider collecting as a hobby, say stamp collecting, you expect for some collectors to be informal about their collections and others to be obsessive, and you expect some collectors to be in it for love and others for money.

 

Rob Hardy: Soap, Science, & Flat-Screen TVs

Posted 2/11/2011 in Columns

I think the first time I heard of liquid crystals, they were used for a silly purpose, within the Mood Rings which were a fad 30 years ago. The "gem" held by the ring changed color; the color-change was based on the temperature of the finger, and of course that had nothing to do with the wearer's mood.

 

Rob Hardy: American Rose

Posted 2/2/2011 in Columns

In 1959 came to Broadway one of the best musicals ever, "Gypsy: A Musical Fable." It was indeed a fable, a musicalized version of the memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee, a memoir which was itself highly fictional.

 

Rob Hardy:'Geographies of Mars'

Posted 1/19/2011 in Columns

While Space Shuttle flights have become so commonplace we haven't paid much attention to them in a while, and few people keep track of the doings of the International Space Station, when a robot has gotten to Mars and has started sending back signals, millions of people around the world wanted to watch the robot and see what it was finding.

 

Rob Hardy: Fraser's Penguins

Posted 1/10/2011 in Columns

A cartoon in our paper showed an addled scientist in a wizard's hat proclaiming, in our spate of winter weather, that global warming was the new global cooling. People have had a good deal of misunderstanding about global warming, and mocking egghead scientists might be satisfactory to those who want to say that there is no climate problem.

 

Rob Hardy: 'Defiance of the Patriots'

Posted 1/4/2011 in Columns

Everyone knows about the current Tea Party and its influence on our politics. Whether it will still be in play 20 years from now will have to be seen, but far more certain is that the original Boston Tea Party of 1773 will continue to be influential.

 

 

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