Endless Love

Joe invents a time machine. He travels back in time and meets Emily, and they have a child, Bill. Bill grows up, meets Carol, and has a child, Joe. Joe grows up and invents a time machine, and so on.

Joe and Bill are each the other’s father and son, and each man is his own grandfather.

From Dave Morice’s Alphabet Avenue, 1997. See “Proof That a Man Can Be His Own Grandfather” and Oedipus Wrecked. Robert Heinlein’s 1959 story “‘–All You Zombies–‘” is even more confusing.

The Great Michigan Pizza Funeral


When the FDA ordered Ilario Fabbrini to recall 29,188 frozen cheese and mushroom pizzas in 1973, fearing a botulism outbreak, the Michigan pizza magnate went them one better: He buried the pies ceremonially in an 18-foot hole before a crowd of hundreds, including Michigan governor William Milliken.

“I admire your spunk and your spirit,” Milliken told him. “You are an example for businessmen all over the country who are facing tough problems. You are fighting back and I’m sure you will succeed.”

Fabbrini had hoped to make a virtue of necessity, giving up the pizzas but gaining at least some publicity and goodwill in the process. The recall was the largest of its kind to date in American history.

Unfortunately the FDA later ruled out botulism, which meant that the whole escapade had been needless.

Fabbrini sued his suppliers and eventually won the case, but Papa Fabbrini Pizzas went out of business in the early 1980s.


New Mexico’s state senate took up a startling amendment in 1995 — it would have required psychologists to dress up as wizards when providing expert testimony on a defendant’s competency:

When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong.

The measure had received unanimous approval in the senate and was headed for the house of representatives when sponsor Duncan Scott explained that he’d intended it as satire — he felt that too many mental health practitioners had been acting as expert witnesses. It was withdrawn and never signed into law.

General Delivery

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Send a postcard to the “missing post office” on Awashima Island, Japan, and it will be held there to be read by anyone. Messages can be sent for any reason — the office has received cards addressed to deceased relatives, early loves, unborn children, even to a traffic light. Samples:

‘Mother, When you died last summer I didn’t cry. When you were alive it was like we only said horrible and spiteful things to each other … If we met now I think we still would … But a year has passed and I have only loving memories from childhood left. I have when we made pudding together. I have when we read books. I have when you bought me my piano. That was the happiest.’

‘To my future grandchild, When will you arrive? The sooner the better, come on and be born! I can’t wait to finally do for you everything I couldn’t do for my own kids.’

‘Actually, I was hoping to do the folk dance at school with you. My heart was pounding with excitement as our turn together was coming around soon but … just before it happened, the song cut off. Since then several autumns have gone by. What might have happened to you by now?’

The project was launched in 2013 by artist Saya Kubota and has been maintained due to its popularity. Anyone can participate — send a postcard to this address, omitting the name of the recipient and your own name and address:

Missing Post Office (Hyoryu Yubinkyoku) 769-1108 Hyoryu Yubinkyoku Dome Awashima 1317-2, Takuma Town, Miyoto City, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan

A visitor who feels a message is meant for them will be allowed to keep it.

Related: The Bridegroom’s Oak.

Music Space

We seem to think naturally of musical pitches as bearing spatial relations to each other, and of music reflecting movement within that space — we speak of notes neighboring one another, of being higher or lower than one another, of scales ascending or descending, and so on. Why is this? It’s true that “high” notes reflect higher frequencies, but people who don’t know this still tend to use these terms. Why don’t we call “high” notes “hot” or “deep”?

In summarizing several cross-cultural studies, Stephen Davis concluded that music’s being “heard in spatial terms would appear to be more or less universal.” The notes that Westerners call “high” some other cultures call small, weak, sharp, or white, while “low” notes are big, strong, flat, heavy, or black. But Davies finds these are all terms for spatial concepts and found no reversals of these “synaesthetic equations” (no cultures in which “high” notes are low, big, or heavy, for example).

Trinity University philosopher Andrew Kania writes, “[F]undamental though the phenomenon seems to be to our experience of music, it can be quite baffling to consider what we could be hearing moving in the music, and what space such movement could be located in.”

(Andrew Kania, Philosophy of Western Music: A Contemporary Introduction, 2020.)

The Peirce-Putnam Paradox

peirce-putnam paradox

Divide line interval AD at point P and separate the halves by a short distance.

What’s happened to point P? Did it become point B or C? It seems wrong to say that it’s neither of these, or that it’s only one of them.

But if the single point P has “become” the two points B and C, how can we say it was a dimensionless object?

(Hilary Putnam, “Peirce’s Continuum,” in Kenneth Laine Ketner, ed., Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries, 1995, via Piotr Łukowski, Paradoxes, 2011.)



Allegedly this scheme was invented by a poet who wanted to write all night without interruption. He set up a row of candles and linked the base of each to the top of the next with a piece of twine. When the first candle burned down to the twine, “the latter naturally caught fire, and a tongue of flame would creep up to the adjoining candle, lighting it in the manner desired.”

“The scheme is a pretty example of the brilliancy of simplicity in idea, as compared with the complicated arrangements often devised to secure simple results.”

(James Scott, “Strange Devices,” Strand, August 1895, 184-189.)

A Remarkable Injury


This gruesome portrait illustrates an unconfirmed story: It’s said that in the 16th century a Hungarian nobleman named Gregor Baci survived for a year after being impaled through the head during a joust.

Did this really happen? We don’t know, but in 2010 surgeon Martin Missmann and his colleagues showed that it could have.

They had been presented with a craftsman whose head was transfixed by a metal bar that had fallen from a height of 14 meters. After two surgeries and a year of headaches and double vision, they said, the patient was symptom-free.

“This case shows that even severe penetrating traumas of the head and neck can be survived without sequelae of serious physiological dysfunction,” they wrote.