I Lied Today

r toon

I lied today. About my age.

As I waited to get a haircut, the other men bragged about how old they were. The oldest was 87, and the youngest, but me, was 81.

I told them I was 71. Which I am … almost. They complemented me on looking younger. I felt bad.

What possessed me to do that? Felt like a child saying he was almost seven.

Not a bad feeling–not the fib–the childishness.

 

My Seven Wonders of the World, #7

My Seven Wonders of the World, #7: Walls of Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is an interesting construction in its own right, and is surrounded by gardens and dry and wet moats making it a pleasant park in the center of Japan’s second-largest city. My focus in this designation are the fitted-stone walls surrounding the enclosure and central tower.

Almost five hundred years old, the walls are dry stacked of large square stones, some at the corners and gates huge, with smaller stones fitted to add stability. A rigid wall construction would not serve in earthquake-prone Japan. Must be seen (as we did in 1985) to be appreciated.

What we see today is a re-construction of the ancient walls and castle, which was destroyed several times over the centuries. The layout of the walls, moats and gates facilitated defense in the age before effective long-range artillery.

This last wonder is a place holder for the great stone works of ancient Asia. Elsewhere in Japan I saw similar stacked stone walls. In addition to their function as rock chutes for defense, the curves pull the eye upward, contributing to the wonder of their sites. I have not seen the Great Wall of China (itself mostly a re-construction), but would like to.

My Seven Wonders of the World, #6

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Hagia Sophia Exterior –imgarcade.com

My Seven Wonders of the World, #6

Hagia Sophia and its millennia-younger imitator the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. (The nine hundred years newer Blue Mosque is prettier from the outside and its dome cleaner and brighter inside, but the older church set the standard.)

As architectural achievements the domes of these buildings are incredible feats. As a sensory experience they are stupefying. Both boast amazing open space under their domes. Seeming acres of open floor stretch out with no columns intervening. Photographs do not capture the feeling of immensity.

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Blue Mosque Interior — kids.britannica,com

Both give the illusion of being larger inside than they seem from outside. I have noticed this phenomena with similar structures, including large (now vanished) circus tents and Cold War hardened aircraft shelters. From the outside the vault or dome slopes away from the viewer, making it seem smaller than it is. Inside, the viewer experiences the full immensity of the covered space. For that reason, Saint Peters Basilica and gothic cathedrals may be larger but lack the feeling of immensity.

A unique experience.

Reconciling Irreconcilables

image from www.history.comHave you noticed the Alexander Hamilton worship? Paradoxically, many of his acolytes also adulate Thomas Jefferson.

In life, they were bitter opponents and greatly disliked each other personally. How do we reconcile the current love of both? Revisionist history, rose-colored glasses, and two centuries remove.image from www.nationalreview.com

They were both great men, though they differed in almost every way. Our nation was fortunate to have both among its founders. If we hadn’t (along with G. Washington, B. Franklin and a few others), America might have gone the way of the French Revolution, which would have been fine with one of them.

My Seven Wonders of the World, #5

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photo from pininterest.com

Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru.

Despite the latter being the poster image (top photo) of the Inca Empire, they ruled from Saksaywaman (near Cusco) eighty kilometers away. In my mind the massive walls of Saksaywaman (lower image) are more striking than the re-constructed temples, homes and terraces of Machu Picchu. (The photograph does not reveal that the far hills are separated from Machu Picchu by a river gorge, which effectively creates a thousand-foot-deep moat on three sides of the site.)

Particularly remarkable is the similarity of Saksaywaman’s finely-fitted massive walls to similar constructions, such as the cyclopean walls of Mycenae half a world and several millennia away, and Osaka Castle, closer in time but more remote culturally.

Machu Picchu’s site and modern reconstruction renders it more photogenic, despite its being a subsidiary outpost of the Inca. After the Spanish conquest, the site of Machu Picchu site was covered by jungle and known only by locals until the twentieth century. If you have the opportunity, visit both as we did.

The particularly fit can trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu along paved trails of the Inca. The distance challenges less than the altitude, which starts at 12,000 and descends to 8,000. We didn’t make that trek but did in 2003 climb Huayna Picchu, the hill overlooking Machu Picchu, to a tiny (perhaps priestly) community site for a selfie (since lost).

My Seven Wonders of the World, #4

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Appian Way near Rome (www.keyword-suggestions.com)

Roman Roads, including bridges and aqueducts, but not monuments and buildings. The Romans didn’t just grade the path and lay out some stones, they built their roads like buildings. They built their roads to last, and last they did.

To this day Europe, western Asia and North Africa are crisscrossed with the veins of Roman military, commercial and administrative governance. They anticipated modern highways for defense and commerce.
Seemingly, all the straight roads in England were laid out by the Romans. Over mountains, across rivers, or through bogs, the Roman demonstrated that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The Watling Street from Exeter to Lincoln stretches 293 kilometers, never more than ten kilometers from a straight line.

aquaduct

(Caesarea Maritime aqueduct in Israel. My photograph)

Over the years we encountered Roman roads in England, Germany, Italy (of course), Greece, Turkey, and Israel. The adage about all roads leading to Rome may not be true, but the roads connected an empire for a thousand years, and many remain under roads and bridges still used today. (You’d think we could make a road last a hundred years.)

My Seven Wonders of the World, #3

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Temple Mount of Jerusalem

 

(AVRAHAM GRAICER, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been a focus of history and religious devotion and fanaticism for three millennia. Three faith’s hold it to be the site where Abraham offered his son (Genesis), though they disagree which son was offered. It was the site of Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s (Nehemiah?) and Herod’s temples in the tenth and sixth centuries BC and first century AD.

Some assert that Herod’s Temple was only the second, as the building of the third temple will supposedly trigger the Apocalypse, but historically Herod’s Temple was the third Jewish temple built on this site. Calling it a reconstruction of Zerubbabel’s sanctuary would compare to Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #2

The second in a series of seven articles about the seven man-made objects/sites I found most amazing. You mileage is sure to vary.

My #2 is Stonehenge.

stonehenge

commons.wikipedia.org image

Equally old, evocative and challenging as the Giza Pyramid group is the Stonehenge of Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge is a series of concentric circular monuments started as early as 8000 B. C. Most visible today are the remains of Stonehenge designated 3aII, built during the twenty-sixth century B. C., about the same time as Khufu’s Pyramid.

Stonehenge is best seen on quiet days without the crazies. (Like the Pyramids, Stonehenge was built long before Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #1

Noodling around the internet “researching” something else, I ran across a New Wonders of the World list. Based on a poll run by an outfit in Switzerland, it was mostly a popularity contest. Several of the listed “wonders” can be rejected outright: neither the Statue of Liberty in New York nor Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro are wonders. Large statues, but neither the largest nor the most significant. Too modern. Ditto the Eiffel Tower. Petra and the Taj Mahal at least showed endurance.

So, I jotted down a list of seven wonders, then realized that I had actually seen only four of them. How can I judge the wonder-value of something I’ve only seen in photographs? Therefore, I started over, listing seven manmade structures which moved me when I experienced them. Rather than just list the seven, I’ll devote a short article to each. Along with a picture. Unfortunately, I visited some before the era of digital photography and, while I took pictures of each, I’d be hard pressed to find them now, and they’d be slides, prints or negatives.

The current mode would start at number seven and work up to number one, but that doesn’t work because, even if any of you have seen them, there can be only one greatest manmade wonder of the world. Even the ancients agreed. In fact, this group of structures was ancient when the ancients made their list. And is the only surviving wonder of the original list. I’m referring, of course, to:

1. The Great Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

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commons.wikimedia.org

The Giza Pyramids are perhaps the only “gimmee” on the list. No one who sees them can miss their gigantic proportions and simplicity of form. When I saw the Pyramids in March 1983, I was prepared beforehand to be underwhelmed because I expected them not to live up to the hype. We stayed at the Mena House Hotel (a significant historical site itself) just down the hill from Khufu’s Pyramid. (The Mena House starts on the edge of the picture, by the golf course.) The first afternoon we walked up the hill to see for ourselves.

Approached that way, Khufu’s Pyramid shields those of Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu’s Pyramid isn’t just big, it’s so big that your sense of proportion is jarred. Impressive? It’s as impressive–no, more impressive in person. In addition to the three great pyramids Continue reading

Reducing the Bureaucracy

A federal hiring freeze is a good start, but the Washington bureaucracy–including the Pentagon–needs a ten to twenty percent authorization reduction, not just current bodies.

C. Northcote Parkinson noted in the 1950s: (1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and (2) “Officials make work for each other.” The number employed in a bureaucracy rose by 5–7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done”.

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” Ronald Reagan

Also called a self-licking ice cream cone.