Here's Eleven New Things I Wonder About- And Maybe You Do, Too

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

Within the last two weeks, my mind has been on curiousity-powered overdrive. A permanent state of affairs for me, truth be told.

With that character attribute in place, I've posted Ten Things I Wonder About -- And Maybe You Do, Too, and Ten More Things I Wonder About- And Maybe You Do, Too. I drew from mysteries surrounding history, politics and pop culture.

Thanks for all your thought-provoking comments. Now, with curiosity still unsatiated, I'm back for more. And I've added one, making 11 additional things I am curious about:

1. What happened to the young man who faced down the tank at Tiananmen Square?- You likely remember the 1989 freedom demonstrations at Tianamen Square in Beijing, the brutal military crackdown ordered by the authorities, and the never-identified young man who stood in front of the tank. He was never seen again.

Given that the image was seen around the world, someone was sure to have identified him. I'll spare you the graphic details, but I am afraid that not long after the authorities figured out who he was and where he lived, this brave soul ceased to walk among us. And to thwart the story ever coming out, I'd bet that his whole family was eliminated, as well.

2. Why is "health food" so expensive?- One convenient answer would be that health food suppliers, and the specialty retail outlets they've supplied for several decades, do not have the distribution, purchasing and operational efficiencies in place to support prices equivalent to mass-produced food sold in major supermarket chains. OK, I can accept that.

But now many health food brands are actually owned by major health food suppliers, and are carried in those same major supermarkets. Additionally, we've seen the growth of healthy food chains such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats- chains that are large enough to establish these efficiencies.

So why is healthy food so pricey? I fear part of the reason for this continued priciness is the perception that people who "eat healthier" tend to be better educated, more concerned about health, more affluent, and thus, willing to put up with these inflated prices.

3.What was so special about the Grateful Dead?- A lot of their songs were and still are fun to listen and sing along to. Jerry, and the bandmates that survive him, were and are very versatile musicians. But in terms of virtuosity and tightness, they were easily surpassed by other bands of that era, including Little Feat and the Allman Brothers. And as far as the "Deadheads" were concerned, nothing like pot,noodle rock and outwardly simpatico entertainers to reinforce your self-discovery when you first become old enough to escape the clutches of your repressed familial upbringing.

4. Are we alone in the galaxy? - I used to think, no. But now, I am starting to review just how many incredible coincidences had to occur before life on this planet got on the trajectory toward human development. When you calculate the collective odds on several lucky rolls from the aminos, maybe a kick start or two from life-bearing meteorites, lucky evolutionary turns or perhaps even a kick-start from an intelligent designer- you are getting into odds that are incalculable.

Then, even after intelligent life develops, who's to say such sentience would even care about building radio telescopes?

My thoughts: microbes are common, sensient life is exceedingly rare, civilizations are rarer still.

5.Why do people think the Edsel was ugly?-Maybe my aesthetic sense is waaaay off-kilter, but when I see an Edsel I see a thing of beauty.

6.Why do we tolerate cigarette company PSAs on television?- Tobacco companies are banned from overtly advertising their poison on television. Yet we put up with their "how to stop smoking," "here's how to talk to your child about the risks of smoking," etc. ads.

OK, I'll be callous. These ads are nothing more than ploys to portray these companies as good corporate citizens, and to get regulatory agencies to stop suing them. Yet if you go overseas, you'll see cigarettes from these same companies dangling from the mouths of 13 year-olds. So the strategy seems to be, deflect criticism at home and maximize profits overseas.

7.Why do people think "MASH" was funny?- The movie and tv series were cleverly written and excellently acted. Yet even fictional comedic depictions of war, sickness and injury are so unfunny that it rings insincere.

8. What's the deal with this fascination with the Middle Ages ?- Maybe I am just a party-poopin' sourpuss, but when I see silly stuff like Middle Ages-themed "Faires," societies, light-hearted reenactments, etc., I think that they are romanticizing an era where most people lived in poverty as uneducated serfs, medical knowledge was primitive, plague raged, religious inquisitions ruled, large numbers of babies were born dead, slavery,rape and pillage were common, democracy was virtually unknown, and class privilege was exercised by a very very few.

This was a contemptible time in our history - worthy of serious examination and artistic treatment, but spare me the silly costumes and weekend romps. The Middle Ages sucked.

9.Do "for sensitive skin" razors and shaving cream work?-I alternate back and forth between these products and standard razors/creams, but I get just as many "gotchas." Hard for me to accept this "for sensitive skin" stuff as anything but marketing hype.

10. Why does the Bush administration care more about pot abuse than meth abuse? -Meth abuse has been raging in rural and small town America for years. There are some 1 million meth users, almost all of whom are addicts. There are an estimated 16 million pot smokers, but a far lower percentage of them have violent social pathologies. Meth is starting to get on the Bush admin's radar, but pot- even taken as prescribed medical marijuana - gets them all ajitter. I have my own ideas why this is the case, and will save that for a future post.

And here's your bonus question:

11.Why are algebra, trig and calculus still taught in schools? - Engineers and architects need this knowledge. Fine, then. Why not make these courses a high-school elective, and then teach more computer science, more languages, more sociogeography, more personal financial management and economics?

I'll tell you why. Most of the public school educational mindset are bound and wired to a pedagogical mindset that is very slow to steer
around. The world - and what our kids need to learn to survive in it - is changing a lot faster than century-old curriculum assumptions are.