The Pizza Effect

Modern pizza toppings are commonly thought to have originated in Italy, but in fact they were developed by Italian immigrants in the United States and then exported back to Italy. Syracuse University anthropologist Agehananda Bharati calls this the “pizza effect” — the elements of a nation’s culture are sometimes developed elsewhere and then reimported. Further examples:

  • Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade was invented for the James Bond film Spectre and then adopted by the city.
  • American blues music influenced English musicians in the 1960s, who then exported blues-rock to the United States.
  • Adapted from India’s chicken tikka, chicken tikka masala became one of the most popular dishes in Britain before being re-exported to India.
  • Yoga became popular in India after its adoption in the West.
  • Salsa music originated largely among Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants to New York in the 1920s and then spread throughout the Americas.
  • Teppanyaki, the Japanese style of cooking on an iron griddle, grew to prominence in America in “Japanese steakhouses.”

The pizza example continues to “echo” between the Italian and American cultures: American tourists sought out “authentic” (non-American) pizza in Italy, and the Italians met the demand by creating brick-oven pizzerias. The Americans then carried these back to their own country. Stephen Jenkins of Humboldt State University writes, “Hence, Americans met their own reflection in the other and were delighted.”

House Debate

On seeing two women screaming at one another across an Edinburgh alley, Sydney Smith paused.

“Those two women will never agree,” he said. “They are arguing from different premises.”


“Love is like a dream that’s too good to be true.” — Langston Hughes

“Love is like butter, it goes well with bread.” — Yiddish proverb

“Love is like linen, the more often chang’d, the sweeter.” — Phineas Fletcher

“Love is like those shabby hotels in which all the luxury is in the lobby.” — Paul-Jean Toulet

“Love is like a cigar, the longer it burns the less it becomes.” — Punch, 1855

“Love is like fire … wounds of fire are hard to bear; harder still are those of love.” — Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

“Love is like the devil; whom it has in its clutches it surrounds with flames.” — Honoré de Balzac

“Love is like the measles; we all have to go through it.” — Jerome K. Jerome

A Broken Promise

The Los Angeles Times called this “the most horrible crime of the 1920s”: On Dec. 18, 1927, a man appeared at the junior high school attended by Marion and Marjorie Parker, 12-year-old twin daughters of banker Perry H. Parker. The man said that he was a bank employee and that Marion was wanted immediately by her father.

Marion departed with him, and no one suspected anything until Marjorie came home alone. Police searched the city but had found nothing when a ransom note arrived the following morning asking Parker to gather $1,500 and await further instructions. The kidnapper sent an appeal from Marion and then called that evening with directions to a dropoff location. Parker obeyed, but police were visible in the area and the kidnapper stayed away.

A new letter was delivered the following afternoon:

I am vexed and disgusted with you … You will never know how you disappointed your daughter … Pray to God for forgiveness for your mistake last night.

Fate — Fox

He included a note from Marion:

Dear Daddy and Mother:

Daddy, please don’t bring any one with you today. I am sorry for what happened last night. We drove right by the house. I cried all the time last night. If you don’t meet us this morning, you will never see me again.

Love to all

Marion Parker

A call came at 7:15 telling Parker where to go. He parked his car and turned off the lights as instructed. A car parked beside him and a man pointed a gun and told him to hand over the money. Parker demanded to see his daughter. The stranger lifted the girl’s head from beside him; she appeared to be asleep. Parker assumed she’d been drugged and handed over the money.

The man drove 200 feet forward, stopped, got out, and lifted the girl’s body onto the sidewalk. Then he got in and drove away. Parker ran to the girl and lifted her head, then screamed. Her legs had been cut off near the hips. She had been dead for hours.

Police tracked down 18-year-old bank messenger William Hickman, who said he’d wanted the money to go to college. He did say that he’d strangled Marion with a towel before he’d amputated her legs. He was hanged the following October.

(From Hank Messick and Burt Goldblatt, Kidnapping: The Illustrated History, 1974.)

Shelter Morality

At a 1962 meeting on civil defense, one local resident of Hartford, Conn., warned the rest that his fallout shelter contained only enough food and water for his immediate family, and so during a nuclear attack he’d be forced to shoot any who tried to join them. His neighbor appealed to him:

‘John,’ she said, ‘you and your family have been our closest friends for ten years. Do you mean to say that if this city was bombed and my baby and I were caught in the open, and we were hurt, and came to your shelter you would turn us away?’

John nodded in the affirmative. His neighbor pressed the point.

‘But suppose we wouldn’t turn away and begged to get in?’

‘It would be too bad,’ John said. ‘You should have built a shelter of your own. I’ve got to look out for my own family.’

‘But suppose we had built a shelter of our own, yet were caught by surprise, being out in the open at the time of an attack, and we discovered that the entrance to our shelter was covered with rubble and we had no place to turn except to you. Would you still turn us back?’

The answer was still yes.

‘But suppose I wouldn’t go away and kept trying to get in. Would you shoot us?’

John said that if the only way he could keep his friend out would be by shooting her and her baby, he would have to do it.

These questions raised disagreements even among clergymen during the Cold War. In an article titled “Ethics at the Shelter Doorway,” Father L.C. McHugh urged his readers to “think twice before you rashly give your family shelter space to friends and neighbors or to the passing stranger.” The nondenominational Christian Century opposed this sentiment. “Men and women who manage to survive a nuclear attack by locking doors on imperiled neighbors or shooting them down to save themselves might conceivably survive,” the editors wrote. “But who would want to live in the kind of social order such people would create out of the shambles?”

(From Kenneth D. Rose, One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, 2001.)


According to legend, when the pirate Olivier Levasseur was hanged in 1730, he flung a necklace into the crowd, crying, “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!” The necklace (supposedly) contained this cryptogram, which people have been trying to decipher ever since. The will of fellow pirate Bernardin Nageon de L’Estang (allegedly) refers to “considerable treasure … buried on my dear île de France” (now Mauritius), and the puzzle may or may not be related to carvings found in the rocks at Bel Ombre beach in the Seychelles by L’Estang’s descendant Rose Savy in 1923.

Does any of this add up to anything? Who knows? Nick Pelling has a good skeptical discussion here, including an interpretation of the cryptogram as a pigpen cipher.


Proverbs of the 11th century, from Egbert of Liège’s The Well-Laden Ship:

  • Not every cloud you see threatens rain.
  • A boy is consumed by envy, an old man by anger.
  • A reasonable sufficiency is more righteous than dishonorable riches.
  • One does well to distrust a stream, even one that is calm.
  • Sometimes an old dog growls the truth.
  • It is a hard cheese that the greedy man does not give to his dogs.
  • He who cannot conceal, ought not to become a thief.
  • Whose bread I eat, his songs I sing.
  • All the gold that a king has does not equal this rain.
  • No thief will be hanged, if he himself is the judge.
  • What earned this one praise gets that one a beating.
  • Smoky things appear by day, and fiery things by night.
  • The living husband is incensed by praise of the dead one.
  • A stupid person who is corrected, immediately hates his admonisher.
  • It is not the lowliest of virtues to have placed a limit on your wealth.
  • No mother-in-law is pleasing to her daughter-in-law unless she is dead.
  • A frog on a throne quickly gives up the honor.
  • When you trade one fish for another, one of them stinks.
  • Whoever hates his work, surely hated himself first.
  • To a man hanging, any delay seems too long.

And “One way or another, brothers, we will all pass from here.”