White-Fronted Bee-Eaters

White-Fronted Bee-Eaters

Christmas has always been about families; and the masses have always been sung by the unmarried. Who, like White-Fronted Bee-Eaters, have devoted their lives to their parents and cousins and sisters and brothers, as helpers-at-the-nest.
House Mice

House Mice

House mice, like us, tend to live in democratic societies when they’re out in the open. But they live under despots when they're hemmed in, closed off or locked up. When emigration is not an option. And nobody gets to vote.

Innocent Religions

Thousands of years after the Buddha, Arjuna, Confucius, Jesus and Abraham, fewer women are herded into palaces, and fewer men live alone. Free speech is one of the means to those ends. And when free speech is intolerant, it should be answered with more speech.

Labor Day

The long, hot summer is over. It’s time to head out to the country, fire up the grill and kick back. The hardworking men and women of America are taking a day off. Generations of helpers-at-the-nest and workers have earned it—more than most of us bother to count.
Bastille Day

Bastille Day

223 years ago, on 14 July 1789, the crowds took to the streets in Paris, the Bastille was stormed, and the French Revolution began. People have celebrated today, from Paris to Montreal.They've marched in parades and sung the Marseillaise. May it always be sung, from Cuba to the United States.

To the Father of Our Country

The Washington Monument is the tallest obelisk on earth, a straight, tapered shaft of hollow rock—a fitting tribute to the Father of Our Country. Over the course of history, there were Fathers of many Countries. And many of them left obelisks.

Happy Single Mother's Day

Most American children were raised by two parents, once. But by last count, more than half of all women under 30 who give birth in the US are without a spouse.
The Gray Divorcee

The Gray Divorcee

At last count, roughly one in three Boomers was single. And we're splitting up later in life. Roughly one in four divorces are now granted to people 50 and older. Why?

Beware the Ides of February!

It was snowing last week in Rome. The pope made an appearance at St Peter's in a white coat, and the Colosseum was closed. But in Italy, the middle of February is usually the beginning of spring. A nice time for fertility rites.
Obama Family Values

Obama Family Values

Credit should be given where credit is due. Here is a man who has spent decades in public life, a product of Chicago politics, an Illinois state senator, US Senator and President of the United States, without a whiff of scandal about his personal life.

Hello, Kim Jong Un

Like his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un is becoming "a great person born of heaven." There have been other divine kings. Some of them were worshipped in Bethlehem. Others were worshipped in Rome.

Goodbye, Joe Paterno

Not so long ago, the middle of Pennsylvania was the middle of nowhere. But there are tens of thousands of people there, now. Institutions tend to grow. And sometimes, bad things happen when they do.

Those Who Help Themselves

As advertised, a month ago tomorrow, on September 17th, the rabble moved into Wall Street. People sleeping in cardboard boxes and tents occupied a space formerly known as Liberty Plaza Park.

The Helpless

The cover of Kathyrn Stockett’s bestseller, The Help, is covered with birds. I wonder if she knows how apt that is. My friend, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, would.

Apology to Dora Wilcken

The bad thing about polygamy is that it tends to dissipate wealth. Households are apt to break up, and nobody gets rich off an inheritance. But polygyny—which is all over the place—is much worse.
Apology to Maria Shriver

Apology to Maria Shriver

Arnold Schwarzenegger's maid has cost him his reputation, and his wife. An anonymous maid in the Sofitel Hotel has cost Dominique Strauss-Kahn his job at the IMF, and may have cost him the presidency of France. Before the first Independence Day, that wouldn't have happened.
Suicide Watch

Suicide Watch

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, otherwise known as the bourgeois bohemian, the caviar leftist, the Great Seducer and Porsche tranquille, has been exonerated for his personal transgressions before, and may be exonerated again. His accuser, a 32-year-old single mother from Guinea, may not.

Going Nuts

Losing a lover can be disabling, and nothing is worse than losing a child. But losing a dictatorship must come close. Plenty of dictators—Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi may be cases in point—have lost their grip on reality as they lost their grip on power.


In May of 1786 -- a decade after the start of the American Revolution, 3 years before the French Revolution began, and a year before Don Giovanni premiered in Prague -- The Marriage of Figaro first played on a Vienna stage. The music was Mozart's; the libretto was da Ponte's.

Don Giovanni

Lorenzo da Ponte led an uneven life. Born Emanuele Conegliano in Venice to Jewish parents, he was converted to Catholicism at 14, changed his name, became a priest, and seduced another man's wife.

A Story of Two Squares

For the last few weeks, Egypt has been the most exhilarating place on earth. And we've all been living in Egypt. 

A Tale of Two Moseses

Back in the old days, every New Year in the Near East, people acted out a Sacred Marriage rite. Kings played the shepherd, Dumuzi, opposite an anonymous Inanna, the fertility goddess.

And Good Will Toward Men

Every year, within weeks of the winter solstice, when the days are bleak and the nights are black, we bring evergreens into our houses and string lights onto our lawns. Then we get together with friends and family members, and reassure each other.

Red State, Blue State

Another election has come and gone. And we have, like so many electorates, thumbed the incumbents down. We've balanced the power of the blues; we've red shifted to the right.

Dirty Politics

9 days from now, on Tuesday, 34 seats in the senate, 435 seats in the house, and 36 governorships will be up for grabs. And not much mud has been slung.

Widows and Orphans

Politicians have promised to look out for widows and orphans, from the beginning of recorded time.

Bean Picking

Farming is hard work. Ask an ant.

Moral Instincts

What makes us sacrifice ourselves? For Darwin, that was the fundamental question. It could be kinship; it could be tit-for-tat. Or, it could be that we're trapped.