When Radio Ruled

  WHEN RADIO RULED  When I came of age, television had invaded our lives.  Ed Sullivan showed us the Beatles, and the nightly news showed us the daily body counts of the dead in Vietnam. Civil Rights, and the Women's Movement.  Revolution in our culture.  Rebellion in our generation.  But change had had preceded us.  [...]

The Forum Romanum

THE FORUM ROMANUM Perhaps you've been there before, or just wanted to go. You know, "Et tu, Brute?" That was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Don't we learn most about ourselves and our history through Shakespeare and the Bible? That is what Orson Wells thought, but he also thought we were being invaded by Martians. At least [...]

Making Soap in Shelby County

  MAKING SOAP IN SHELBY COUNTY I teach the four general categories of organic compounds in my Junior College class. "Organic" originally meant that such a compound was produced by life forms. Not always the case, but a good enough definition for this essay. The four categories are carbohydrates (simple sugars, starch, cellulose), proteins (amino [...]

The Caves, Cane, and Coal of Kentucky

THE CAVES, CANE, AND COAL OF KENTUCKY "Paradise" is what the first European explorers called Kentucky. And Kentucky still fashions itself as a Commonwealth. But it was known to many people, plants, and animals long before Thomas Walker crossed the Cumberland Gap in 1750, Christopher Gist visited Lower Shawneetown in 1751, or John Findley showed [...]

Surrounding Munfordville

SURROUNDING MUNFORDVILLE Kentucky. In the center of that Common Wealth. At the crossroads. The Green River running west, and Interstate 65 north and south. You have driven passed Munfordville many times. Why didn't you stop? Confederate General Braxton Bragg and Union General Don Carlos Buell stopped there. Fought there. For there is where the Louisville [...]

Three Rivers in the Civil War

  THREE RIVERS IN THE CIVIL WAR Why is it called "Civil?" It was anything but. Still isn't. And to me, no buts when it comes to the carnage. Lives torn away from homes and families. Then bodies. And, in Kentucky, armies lined up along three rivers. The Cumberland, Green, and Tennessee Rivers. When Confederate [...]

The Sea Peoples

THE SEA PEOPLES Rarely is change so complete. So damaging. So replete. Maybe when the Neanderthals were killed off? When the Roman Empire collapsed? When Chinese dynasties died? Catastrophic change. And none greater than the destruction of the great Mycenaean Palace states of Greece and the Middle East. Empires of chariots and bronze! Who did [...]

AKHENATEN, TUT, AND ZANNANZA!

AKHENATEN, TUT, AND ZANNANZA! "My husband is dead. I have no son. But they say that you have many sons. If you would give me one of your sons, he would become my husband." And Pharaoh! The request is in Akkadian cuneiform, but from the wife of an Egyptian King. It is written to Suppiluliuma, [...]

The Yemen of Old

  THE YEMEN OF OLD I am fascinated by Yemen. Frankincense and myrrh, spectacular Aden of the spice trade, ancient Saana, the Marib dam, the Port of Mocha, and the lands opposite on the Horn of Africa. But not by its tragic, almost unceasing civil wars. Nor do I seek to wallow in the world [...]

Giants of Gas and Ice

GIANTS OF GAS AND ICE We pass by, as if we fly, or if you wish to sail the sky, within your craft a sailboat be, atop the solar sea beside. Remember Apollo 8 and the first picture of "Earth-Rise" beyond the moon. You are farther away now. In the realm of giants! They are [...]

The Rocky Planets

THE ROCKY PLANETS Why do you want to get off this one? There are no gods to visit on those spinning orbs, and they are not very nice places on which to live. Let's take a quick look in our scientific shuttle. THE SUN Nope. Don't want to go there. Nuclear explosions. Fusion. The conversion [...]

The Family Human-part 3

THE FAMILY HUMAN - part 3Neanderthal PeopleThe excitement began when bones were first discovered in the Neander Valley in Germany in 1856. It was Homo neanderthalensis, a cousin that evolved in Eurasia about 450,000 years ago.Neanderthal People had been widespread in Europe and Asia, and living strong and long before our species arose in the [...]

The Family Human-Part 2

  THE FAMILY HUMAN - Part 2 Homo habilis   The "Handy Man," Homo habilis, was discovered in the Olduvai Gorge of East Africa. Upright and capable of making primitive "pebble stone" choppers from 2.5 million years ago. "Oldowan" tools, we call them. That was a long time ago. Handy Man never left Africa. But [...]

The Family Human, Part 1

THE FAMILY HUMAN, Part 1 Well, Huwoman in actuality. Without the latter, you don't get the former. Hominids for this essay. The family Hominidae includes the Great Apes: Orangutans, Gorillas, and Chimpanzees. Humans are also classified as Great Apes. And we act that way sometimes. We are all in the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class [...]

The Dzungarian Gate

THE DZUNGARIAN GATE And what it is not, location is. And here is the place. A 3,000-mile, nearly impenetrable chain of mountains blockading China from the rest of Eurasia. 1.4 billion people, and all looking to get out. Or at least to expand a little, like they did in 471 A.D.   THE TIAN CHAN [...]

Gilgamesh

GILGAMESH You see him every winter evening on a clear night. And when it is cloudy, he sees you. He is the oldest myth of the humankind, and the first to be placed in the heavens to honor their power. And he kinda, sorta, looks like a person. Not like one of those later Greek [...]

The Trouble with Trilobites

    DON'T STEP THERE! Yikes! Look down where you stand. Walk with care. Trilobites are everywhere! Well, at least here in Kentucky. Pick up a rock in your stream. Chances are that it contains trilobites. Or maybe just parts of them. That's the problem. We want it all now. A big, beautiful, completely whole [...]

The Story of the Horse in America

YIPEEI-YO-KIY-YAEEI! That's Gene Autry in the 1935 science fiction western serial entitled, "The Phantom Empire."  He was one of the first actors in movie serials to play himself. You see, Autry wasn't a trained actor. And he couldn't ride very well either. But director William Witney could. And he taught Autry how to handle a horse.  The great horsemanship [...]