None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by any State or local government, or any private entity, for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool. – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (or, The Stimulus Bill)

When the oldest zoo in America was planning its 150th anniversary, it probably never thought Congress would compare it to a casino just weeks before the celebration. Such was the case for the Philadelphia Zoo, which marked its sesquicentennial this past weekend. The issue isn’t access to the stimulus funds (though that couldn’t hurt), but more the implication that, like swimming, golfing, and gambling, zoogoing is nice but not necessary.

So maybe it’s appropriate that the zoo’s party was thematically more about looking to its past than… More…

 

It’s hard not to feel for the people behind the Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest in the world and the oldest in America. When they chose this year’s theme — “Bella Italia” — they couldn’t have known that the stock market would hit its lowest level in more than a decade during their show, and that it might therefore be an inopportune time to celebrate flowers and Italy and events that are “the largest in the world.”

Indeed, the entrance to the 180th anniversary show is so suggestive of Roman decadence that the theme seems almost tongue-in-cheek. Just inside the doors, soaring columns topped with urns of overflowing flowers line a row of fountains that ends at a tall temple where opera singers and choirs give daily performances. Other displays celebrating the art of Florence, the fashion of… More…

I imagine that one of the most universal but least discussed rites of passage is the discovery that the house you grew up in has a very distinct smell, and that it wasn’t just everyone else’s house that smelled peculiar. Recognized only on return from your first long time away, this is typically not the romantic smell of baking pies or pipe tobacco, but neither is it anything foul, like a backed-up septic tank or mildew. It’s instead something that defies description, a complex olfactoral web that is unique to the group living under one roof. Like snowflakes, no two are ever alike.

It is for this reason that I never plan to start a family where I currently reside. I live next to a Wendy’s fast food restaurant, and the smell of my home is very describable: It’s the smell of Wendy’s food cooking. The last thing I want… More…