What I Learned in Pennsylvania About Saving Hawaii’s Whales

World’s first oil well, drilled in 1859 by Edwin Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania Reflecting on my visit to Pennsylvania1 last month, I had an epiphany — that there is a special connection (though of course not a geographical one) between the Keystone State2 and the Aloha State. Let me begin with the conclusion I’ve reached about the […]

A Little-Heralded Footnote to Apollo 11

All the attention to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, reminds me of my own peculiar little footnote to this historic event. At the time, I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in the north-central Indian village of Rajnagar (rough translation: Kingston) where I was working, together with […]

Who Said History Is Boring?

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan Advisory: Despite this blog’s ordinarily being family-friendly, this post is not appropriate for readers under the age of 18 (no nudity, just language). The painting above is one of the strongest possible refutations of the notion that the study of history is dull […]

Bud Korengold, 1929–2019, RIP

Last week I lost a friend, Robert J. “Bud” Korengold.* While we were not close, I greatly admired him. I first made his acquaintance when I was a Russian area studies major at Yale, and he was the Newsweek correspondent in Moscow. Back then, our acquaintanceship was one-way. I knew who he was; he had no […]

Kibbutz Adventures

This is me, age 21 in 1965, standing atop the silo at Kibbutz Dvir in the Negev Desert. The orchards in which we worked can be seen below. In the background, the arid hills of what was then the West Bank of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Last week, in writing about a couple of […]

Who’s Thirsty?

Tasting the Lithuanian version of Manischewitz sweet, kosher wine — which I wrote about last week — was only one of three non-vodka alcoholic adventures I had in the USSR.1 The other two both took place in Riga, Latvia. The first of these was a taste provided by my Soviet-Latvian hosts of what today we might call […]

Everything (Well, Almost) You Ever Wanted to Know About Sweet Kosher Wine … But Were Afraid to Ask

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on an article reporting that “Americans like sweet wines, but nobody talks about it.” The article piqued my interest because my first encounters with wine came as a child, when I’d be offered1 Manischewitz Concord grape wine at traditional Jewish Friday evening meals at my grandparents’ home and, of […]

Hank Gosho, Sensei

Hank Gosho at Tsukuba Expo ’85 (low resolution from heavy cropping of original photo) A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about Don Jones, a colorful character who, among much else, had offered to teach me Japanese in 10 hours. Today, I’d like to tell you a little about another friend and […]

My Brushes With Bush

The death, several days ago, of George H.W. Bush, brings to mind a couple of brushes I had with the man who would later serve as the 41st president of the United States. The first of these “brushes,” in 1971, was entirely impersonal. He and I were both serving at the U.S. Mission to the […]

Anti-Semitism, Both Right- and Left-Wing

This is what anti-Semitism can lead to The horrific murders last Saturday in Pittsburgh, driven by anti-Semitism, prompt me to share some thoughts and perspectives. This will be a lengthy piece, so let me begin with the three thoughts uppermost in my mind. First, although the murderer appears to fit within the stereotype of classic fringe-right-wing, […]