Lucretius and the Renaissance

It’s fairly clear, even after reading only a few verses, why Lucretius’s didactic poem, On the Nature of Things – De Rerum Natura –  made such an impact on thought, philosophy, religion and science in the Renaissance. It must have been like a lighthouse in the dark night; a “Eureka” moment for many of the age’s thinkers. For others, especially the church leaders, it must have arrived like … (more–>)

The 2013 Great Gatsby

Watched the 2013 film of The Great Gatsby last night. The first half was spectacular, grandiose and captivating, if somewhat over the top. Like Busby Berkeley meets The Fifth Element. Extravaganza, spectacle and excess. The film doesn’t feel like it’s set in New York of the Jazz Age. It’s too shiny, too polished, too mechanical, and not gritty enough. That’s actually okay, and had director Baz … (more–>)

Saving Fubsy from Lexicographical Caliginosity

Cousin Stephen, you will never be a saint. Isle of saints. You were awfully holy, weren’t you? You prayed to the Blessed Virgin that you might not have a red nose. You prayed to the devil in Serpentine avenue that the fubsy widow in front might lift her clothes still more from the wet street. O si, certo! Sell your soul for that, do, dyed rags … (more–>)

The Wild Women of Wongo

Who can resist a film with a title like that? Or Zontar, the Thing From Venus? Robot Monster? Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet? The Atomic Brain? Clearly, I can’t. I love this stuff. B-films, especially scifi B-films. But I am a tad disappointed with this Mill Creek package.* I recently received the set of SciFi Classics Collection: 50 Movie Pack, a 12-DVD collection, cover shown on … (more–>)

The Music of the Templars

For the past 25 years, I have had a mysterious page in Latin, held in a cheap picture frame, and stored in a closet for many years. It’s a two-sided page from a book, printed in black and red letters. I bought it at a used-book store in Toronto back when I lived there and frequented such stores. I rediscovered it last week when cleaning out … (more–>)

To err is human. And bureaucratic.

Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum, et tertium non datur. To err is human; to persevere in error is diabolical; there is no third option. Bit of a tough love phrase, that one. Most of us know this as the later paraphrase of Alexander Pope: to err is humane, to forgive divine. Yes, he wrote “humane” because that’s how they wrote “human” in the early 18th century. … (more–>)

Makes you feel happy, like an old time movie

There’s something touching about a classic film, something magical about a B&W movie, about a film shot between the wars in that period of recovery and optimism; a film that was new when my parents were young, full of life and hope. A movie from the days before CGI, before green screens and 3D. Before slasher films, before graphic sex and graphic violence. It’s a combination of … (more–>)

Selling the electric upright bass

My first experience playing a bass guitar came when I was asked to join a local garage band in the mid-1960s. I was learning rhythm guitar back then, inspired by the Beatles and the wave of British pop bands that flooded the airwaves from around 1962. But they already had two of those. They didn’t have a bass player, though, so I became the bass player. … (more–>)

Coriolanus on Film

Coriolanus is a tough play, full of politics and angry people and shouting mobs. It has no comic relief, no jesters, no romance and no real heroes. No great soliloquies, unsympathetic characters, uncomfortable double dealing, treachery and plotting. No powerful subplot as a counterpoint. Pride, arrogance, and power dominate. Coriolanus himself is empty, driven, bereft of the great passions that animate Shakespeare’s other main protagonists. Except … (more–>)

The Fretful Porpentine

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine. That phrase just makes the modern reader stop and wonder. What, you ask yourself, is a porpentine? And why is it fretful? We never learn, although later interpreters would knowingly tell us a porpentine is a porcupine in today’s argot. Porcupine itself dervices from the Old or Middle French term, “porc espin” or spined pig. Which it isn’t – it’s … (more–>)

In Appreciation of Vintage Music

I was listening the other day to a song sung by Cliff Edwards, Cheating on Me, recorded from an old 78 RPM single. Scratchy, warbly, and a bit thin, but it comes across beautifully across the gap of time. When you listen for a while, the scratches just disappear into the background and you hear Ukulele Ike’s lovely voice cut through the noise. I was thinking … (more–>)

The Circuitous Path from Bulge to Budget

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQO7e_a-gvU] If tinkers may have leave to live, And bear the sow-skin budget, Then my account I well may, give, And in the stocks avouch it. Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale,  Act IV, Sc. III, Shakespeare These lines got me thinking about the town’s finances. Sow-skin budget? What does that mean? And how does that relate to the financial plan for the coming year staff is preparing … (more–>)

1927: Ads, Layout and Typography

As promised, here are the first 20 scans of the ads from the 1927 North American Almanac I recently mentioned. If there is interest, I’ll do another set later this week. There are probably another 40 or 50 pages of ads in the book. I think these ads give us a wonderful window into the daily, household life of the time, into cultural views and medical … (more–>)

1927, a Year to Remember

1927. It was the year America sent troops to Nicaragua, forcing a US-supervised election. The year Alfred Hitchcock released his first movie. And the year when Fritz Lang released his masterpiece, Metropolis. Buster Keaton released The General that year, although it bombed at the box office. Clara Bow starred in Wings. Sergei Eisenstein released October: Ten Days That Shook the World. Silent films, all, although the Movietone … (more–>)

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