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Pertinent & Impertinent
The big ideas on the small, the not-so-small, and the everyday.
Picture Books Between pauper's bibles and the modern graphic novel, there's Frans Masereel's My Book of Hours – a crucial example of the power of stories without words.
On Snow It is as beautiful as any garden, and as inescapable as ourselves.
Wild Life Life – and Emerson – tried to lure the naturalist John Muir back to the world. But his home was always the American wild.
On the Wall It's been 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell. But what remains?
No-bel Jean-Paul Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize. Camus accepted it. As far as Existentialism is concerned, neither was wrong.
Passing On 100 years ago, the last passenger pigeon died. Her name was Martha.
Little Histories They aren't the Met or the Louvre, but American historical society museums are filled with different kinds of treasure.
As the World Burned We know the story: World War I splintered the world. What a new memoir shows us is how quickly, and devastatingly, it happened. 
Coming True He wrote fairytales and believed in innocence, but Hans Christian Andersen was no fantasist. He knew that the search for truth was long, winding, and often, all-consuming.
Old People, Young People, and Priests As we approach the 100th anniversary of Dubliners, reflecting on the epiphanies that were collected and frozen within it.
A Cosmic Centennial Celebrating the 100th birthday (the first of several) of Sun Ra, the self-proclaimed visitor from Saturn and prolific composer.
The Sound of Despair On the music of Kurt Cobain, 20 years after his death.
The Two Souls By playing both Nazis and Jews, Maximilan Schell embodied the burden of postwar Germany.
A Story of the Present Journey to the Center of the Earth at 150.
Light and Shadow Mikhail Kalashnikov struggled with his creation, the AK-47. But many inventions trouble their inventors.
Apocalypse Now Is America really a land of creation? Or is this just the place we all came to wait for the end?
Year In, Year Out As we ring in 2014, let’s assess our feelings: Are you grieving for the old, preparing for rebirth, or just feeling pretty average?
The Philosophy of Death Miguel de Unamuno was a man of contradictions. He saw tragedy and death in life, and that was why he loved it.
The Glory of the Garden  James van Sweden wasn’t just a landscaper; he was a landscaping artist. In gardening, he preferred a holistic experience — but Americans disagreed.
All the Time in the World Winthrop Kellogg Edey was obsessed with clocks and watches. After amassing an imposing collection, he died a time artist.
The Other Sea Five centuries ago, Balboa discovered the legendary Pacific Ocean, the future of Europe.
World without Borders What if boundaries as we know them disappeared? What if our world was intrinsically shared?
Give Up the Ghost What was behind the sudden boom of apparitions and Spiritualism in late 19th century America?
Exciting Events Bill Traylor painted scenes of modern life from memory. Today, those memories are slowly disappearing.
Happy 50th Mr. Zip The addition of zip codes to our addresses is a relatively modern change. But getting America on board took the introduction of an iconic cartoon figure.
The Museum of Babel With no one to sponsor him, Marino Auriti’s dream museum became the stuff of legends.
The Alphabet of Nature and Angels English is not a language spelled phonetically, but 200 years ago Isaac Pitman tried to change that.
Close Encounters Humans have always had a desire to get closer to animals. But does bringing them in actually blind us?
Florida’s Parallel Universe The abandoned Nike Missile Site, surrounded by the Everglades, is a reminder of when humans almost destroyed the world and a warning that we could still lose everything today.
Movers and Shakers What’s the difference between SkyMall and the Shakers? One creates products for comfort, the other for independence.
Star Gazers Dung beetles deserve a new reputation. After all, they’re the world’s tiniest astronomers.
Still Waiting In the 60 years since Waiting for Godot premiered, no one has captured the ineffability of love like Samuel Beckett.
Our Oldest Self-Help Book America's obsession with self-reliance used to be a lot more potent.
Animal Planet Americans can ignore their relationship to wild animals. In India, there's no place to hide.
A Simple Story of Motion Artist David Weiss died this year. That, as they say, is the way things go.
You Can Take It with You The backpack has changed in meaning, use, and, most notable, the sheer number of pockets for carrying stuff.
Go to Hell Why is Dulle Griet running into Hell? Maybe the collector has nowhere else to go.
Fade to Black Thomas Kinkade was hardly the first painter of light. But was he the most haunting?
The Man from New Jersey He was an agricultural researcher. A Civil War vet. And the force behind a Buddhist revival.
Zoning Out Time zones change for political purposes. We're fascinated for metaphysical reasons.
Greetings from Here Joseph Roth's books and letters both pine for the past. But while the books balance sadness with joy, the letters are all melancholy.
Always the Optimist For Václav Havel, solidarity wasn't enough; people need to strive for a universal unity.
Immortal Combat Shelley released St. Irvyne 200 years ago. The novel has since faded, but its ideas surrounding life and death flicker on.
If You Pick Us, Do We Not Bleed? Studies of plant perception help us understand what it means to be a plant, of course, but also what it means to be us.
Waves of Memories The sea causes some of our worst natural disasters. And the sea doesn't want us to forget it.
Privacy Policy In the 19th century, Baudelaire struggled with the private/public divide. In the 21st, we all do.
To the Devil If you want to know God, read the Bible. If you want to know humanity, read The Devil's Dictionary.
Running the Numbers Roman Opalka's ''Details'' series suggests an obsession with death, but all those numbers helped the artist live in the moment.
Wild at Heart The Bureau of Land Management is planning a roundup of wild horses in Nevada, but the animal will outlast any federal agency.
Blue Bloods What would make people wear blue face paint and Tyvek pants on a hot summer day? The chance to break a Smurfs world record!
A Temporary Madness Dylan Thomas and his father lost themselves in rage. The problem is, rage burns out.
That's All, Folk! The American Folk Art Museum is leaving its 53rd Street building for a smaller space on Lincoln Square. This is a good thing.
Can You See Me Now? Some want the Deaf to be considered a distinct ethnicity, but will hearing Americans ever stop thinking of deafness as a disability?
Double Trouble We no longer consider conjoined twins ''freaks.'' But two hundred years after the birth of Chang and Eng, they continue to puzzle us.
Taking the Plunge Photographs of river baptisms highlight how all religious pageantry has two audiences.
Send in Whatever Clowns Are Left The number of stage performers has fallen 61 percent in five years. With them goes an entire form of experience.
The Sound of Silence Why is the guitar a folk instrument and not a piano? And what drew Picasso to it?
Travelin' Man Thirty years later, An African in Greenland remains as powerful a study of travel and place as ever.
The Doctors and the Divine Neurotheologists want to explain spiritual experiences, but even a medical diagnosis leaves room for the divine. Take Chopin...
Water View Honestly, we don't need to move under the sea. But it sure would give civilization a proper reboot.
Garden Party If you want to find Olmsted and Socrates in NYC, find a nice little herb growing on a tiny little windowsill.
Let the Bedbugs Bite! You can hire an exterminator to spray for bedbugs. You can wrap your mattress in plastic and pack away all your possessions. Or you can ask, What would Camus do?
Monsters, Inc. The 15th-century saw the world trying to organize and order itself. Arcimboldo's creatures were there to say, Not so fast.
Museum, Ho! For Americans, an exhibit about waterways might as well be a show about Mars.
Escape Act Houdini's magic trumped science and religion. But the magician pays for such power.
The Old World Everyone is panicked that the world is aging. But let's stop to consider what such a world could be.
Happy 200th, Snow White! When the Grimms put down their tale, they couldn't have had any idea what Disney would do to it. I mean, where are the iron shoes?!
Rhinestone Dreams Liberace's Vegas museum is closing. Yes, both are gaudy and loud and over-the-top. But don't we all want to be bigger than ourselves?
The King's Two Bodies They recently dug up Nicolae Ceausescu's corpse. A dictator never really dies.
Washed Up You'd expect a beachcombing museum to have an air of melancholy. But the Juttersmuseum is a place of redemption.
It's Your Birthday How great is it that the single shared experience across the English-speaking world involves bad craft and humiliation?
Battle Scars In 1913, the Great Reunion celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg. Today, it reminds us that freedom is a negotiated value, always in flux.
Strike a Pose It's insulting to call a punk a poser, but punk is a pose. Enter American Idiot the musical...
The Explorer On the centennial of Jacques Cousteau, we consider the last explorer and the surprising focus of his curiosity.
Land of the Rising Sunshine Boca Raton is quintessentially American today, but 100 years ago it was a hotbed of Japanese know-how.
Puzzled The Rubik's Cube is 30. Happy birthday to the colorful, 3x3x3 battle between order and chaos.
American Bling The New York Times jabbed the Hartland Mansion in Vegas, but I don't find the core American aesthetic funny. I think it's kind of beautiful.
Gas Problem Steampunk: the 21st-century answer to 20th-century loss via a nostalgic 19th-century sensibility.
Stamped Out The post office is dying. The sooner the better, I say.
Turducken, Meet Your Match Being vegetarian doesn't mean you have to give up the historic decadence of meat stuffed in meat stuffed in more meat.
A Modest Proposal I am a vegetarian, so of course I read Eating Animals, which is a hot new book exploring ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Ghost Story The only known film of Anne Frank is now on YouTube. Appropriately, the 12-year-old looks out from a window...
Life After Death Gourmet may be done, but it was only ever one soldier in a larger food army.
Groundskeeping Mexico has Día de los Muertos. Nepal has Gai Jatra. But America, being America, has no cohesive culture of death.
We Are the Martians Forty years after the moon landing, the sirens' call of space travel remains. What better time to revisit Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles?
The Dying of the Light Guiding Light's cancellation marks the beginning of the end for soap operas. But while the doctors, divorces, and deaths may disappear, the soap's format will survive.
Summer Holliday Happy birthday, Judy Holliday. We hardly knew ye. Your descendants, on the other hand...
Deus ex Machina The Pope wants kids to tweet. Reading the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran, I can see why.
Swan Song Watching the 2009 Tonys and wondering, Whither the Broadway musical?
A Red-Checkered Blanket Everyone remembers the Wall coming down in '89, but few know of the surprising picnic that helped destroy it.
Vegetable Stand For change you can believe in, go vegetarian. Thoreau and the Kings did.