I suppose that everybody has weeks that challenge not just their understanding of how the world is set up, but also challenge their idea that the world can be basically understood and that mental models of it will make sense. The first really big challenge this week came while my father was watching Antiques Roadshow. That's not particularly challenging to me except that I keep thinking how, if I were on the show as an Expert, I'd be tempted to make stuff up at a frantic pace. Anyway, one of the items on display was a flügelhorn. It had never occurred to me that a flügelhorn was something that actually existed. I mean, listen to the sound of the word: if it's not something that Doctor Seuss made up, then it should have been. You can't even say the word, or think about saying it, without breaking into a bit of a smile. I'm glad that the world is constructed such that a flügelhorn might actually exist, but it's kind of like running into a unicorn in Central Park.
And then there's the comic strip Henry. That comic strip's glory days went out around the time of the Dust Bowl and a halfhearted Betty Boop cartoon, but I remembered running into it just barely enough in the late 70s to understand allusions to it, and it lasted long enough to be part of an SCTV sketch. (Siskel and Ebert review Robert Altman's Henry.) I had trusted it went to that never-land of soap opera comics and Tiger. In fact, Henry is still being syndicated, and -- those friends on my list who were frustrated in their syndicated cartoonist careers may want to skip the rest of this paragraph -- appears in 75 newspapers. Yeah. That's my reaction too. Wikipedia claims that it's all reruns now, although is there any way to tell? Even Dick Tracy, with which I have an inexplicable fascination, is down to under fifty papers. And I had been feeling so good about the flügelhorn thing.
Trivia: One rumor, passed by British spies, was that during Benjamin Franklin's 1776-78 mission to France he was preparing a ``great number of reflecting mirrors'' with which to fire the Royal Navy. Source: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson.
Currently Reading: Forgotten News: the Crime of the Century And Other Lost Stories, Jack Finney. It's a good idea for a book, and probably more along the lines would be worthwhile. And great illustrations, too.