Sunday musings: Rome’s Pantheon, Chinese bullfighting, Conventions = bad behavior?


These Sunday Musings range from a look at a remarkable building — the Pantheon in Rome — to a video about Chinese bullfighting. And, finally, a survey that claims conventions and trade shows breed bad behavior.

A portal to the heavens

Here is an inspiring article about one of my favorite ancient monuments, the Pantheon in Rome. This domed space is the “only major work of Roman Imperial architecture still intact.” Every time I visit, I am in awe.

…it is what’s overhead that draws the gasps: the largest masonry dome ever built—142 feet in diameter and weighing five thousand tons—it is the paterfamilias of every structure like it erected since. At the top is one of the most famous features in architecture, the oculus. It focuses a circle of light into the Pantheon that, tracking the transit of the sun, passes slowly across the interior surfaces as the day progresses. This moving disc—glowing, silent, inexorable—transforms the Pantheon from bricks-and-mortar house of worship into an almost living thing.

Understandably, given its scale and spread, discussions of the Pantheon have tended to focus on engineering—what it took to erect it and keep it standing. To minimize its weight, the dome thins as it rises, starting at about 20 feet thick at the bottom and tapering to only about four feet at the oculus. Lighter aggregates were mixed with the cement as the dome rose.

Photo from

In Chinese bullfighting circles, he’s a bit like Mike Tyson

As many of you know, I just returned from the Running of the Bulls in Spain. And, as you also may know, bullfighting has evolved in France and Portugal and used to be common in ancient Minoan culture. What I didn’t know was the bullfighting traditions of China — not bull vs. man, but bull vs. bull.

There are no matadors in Chinese bullfighting. It’s just bull versus bull in a match that ends when the loser runs away.

Optimus Prime seldom loses. His strategy: Gallop at full speed, smash his rival in the head and send the poor bull sprawling. If Optimus Prime were a boxer, he’d be Mike Tyson.

“He’s the king of the bulls,” says Li Xuebao, a skinny tobacco farmer who says he has seen Optimus Prime fight 20 times.

Conventions breed ‘bad behaviors,’ survey shows

In a survey conducted by virtual meeting provider ON24 (naturally, they want to keep you close to home to use their services), 94 percent of the respondents believe trade shows and conventions are breeding grounds for “bad behaviors.”

In particular, respondents to ON24’s “Your Time, Your Life, Go Virtual” survey said people at trade shows and conventions:

• Drink too much alcohol (71 percent);
• Cheat on their spouses (66 percent);
• Spend too much money (54 percent);
• Eat fatty foods (53 percent);
• Abandon their exercise routine (43 percent);
• Go to bed late (42 percent); and
• Take illicit drugs (31 percent).