Rest In Peace, Mary Chadwick

Mary Mabel Bernice Chadwick passed away quietly in the morning of April 13, 2015 in her room in the Tony Stacey Veterans’ Care Centre. She had awakened that morning, and spoke briefly to staff, but nodded off shortly after. She never awoke. She was 95 years old and lived a full, rich life, one of remarkable resilience and strength. Mary was born shortly after WWI, and grew … (more–>)

Pompeii: Swords-and-Sandals Flop

As a film setting, the town of Pompeii in the first century CE is a lot like the deck of the Titanic in 1912: no amount of special effects or clever script writing is going to save it from the disaster awaiting. As a film, Pompeii has a lot of the former, but precious little of the latter to rescue it. That’s probably why it’s in the … (more–>)

The Bully Pulpit

“I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!” US President Theodore Roosevelt uttered those words in office (reported in the February 27, 1909, issue of The Outlook magazine), coining the phrase ‘bully pulpit’ in referring to the presidency as an ideal platform from which to expound his ideas and advocate his causes. Of course, in his day, bully … (more–>)

Family, a Century Ago

The gentleman in the uniform on the right is William Gordon Pudney, Chief Petty Officer and engineer on the cruiser, Niobe, one of the earliest ship’s in Canada’s fledgling navy. William (Bill) was born in Canada, in 1893. He is perhaps in his early 20s in this undated photograph, taken a century or more ago, maybe even younger. William, my grandfather, served on the Niobe shortly … (more–>)

Conrad Black: Off the Rails

I generally read Conrad Black‘s columns for their entertainment value, but I also read them for the language. Black is the best tosser of pithy epithets since Spiro Agnew*. And like the former US VP, he’s a pompous git who puffs up his intellectual feathers like a pigeon in heat – that puffery of sound and fury that signifies nothing more than an ego he has … (more–>)

Weaponized Aryan Jesus?

The term “weaponized Jesus” comes from an article I read on, from November 2013, titled “The Religious Right With Their Weaponized Jesus Are Not Christians.”  It’s worth a read, if you enjoy the political-religious debate. I eventually traced the phrase back to a 2010 story in Mother Jones. It’s a good description of the way some fundamentalist Americans are taking their religion. But that’s not at … (more–>)

Human Smoke

“The truth of history,” Napoleon wrote in his memoirs while exiled on St. Helena, “is a fable agreed upon.” Agreed upon mostly by the victors, one should add. The losers seldom agree with it. In 1865, Mark Twain added in his work, Following the Equator: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Two centuries after Napoleon, Dana Arnold wrote in … (more–>)

Hate Crimes Against Non-believers Growing

We all know about the hate crimes religious believers commit against one another, against people of a different faith. It’s headlines news, almost daily. Protestants against Catholics. Sunnis against Shiites. Muslims against Christians. Hindus against Muslims. Buddhists against Muslims. Christians against pagans. Christians against Jews. Muslims against Jews. Cults against anyone and everyone against cults. Pick a faith and it’s been involved in attacks, intolerance, intimidation, … (more–>)

Poor King Henry VII

As Rodney Dangerfield might have said had he been cast in a role as Henry VII, “I don’t get no respect.” Henry VII is one of those English kings who never seem to get any attention, outside the rarefied realms of academia. Only of late, it seems, have a few writers and TV producers turned their heads towards him – no doubt because a lot of the … (more–>)

Timothy Leary Was Right. Maybe.

This is your brain on drugs. Or rather, the right-hand image is your brain on psilocybin. The other side is your brain on a non-psychedelic drug. Researchers recently discovered some amazing facts about how our brains work on some chemicals. And some psychedelic drugs prove to have pretty amazing effects. But don’t try this at home… stick to building toy rockets and drones for your science … (more–>)

The Cold War

I was reminded by an article on Slate that the (to me) iconic film of the Cold War, Fail Safe, was released fifty years ago this week. And as the article records, more people remember the satirical film, Dr. Strangelove than the more chilling drama, Fail Safe. Perhaps they have forgotten it, as they have the Cold War itself. Forgotten too are the tensions and the … (more–>)

The Forgotten Gulag

In the introduction to Anne Applebaum’s Pulitzer-prize-winning book, Gulag: A History, she ponders why the “crimes of Stalin do not inspire the same visceral reaction to the crimes of Hitler.” Yet Stalin’s actions and policies killed millions more than the Nazis. Maybe it’s because the USSR wrapped itself in as much secrecy as it could muster for so long. Maybe it’s because the Soviet camps were … (more–>)

The Beginning of the End

Sixty years ago, the end began. It would take almost a full year for the Allies to batter the Third Reich into submission, but in the summer of 1944, the end was inevitable. All could see it. The combined might of the Allied armies was simply overpowering for whatever Germany had left to throw at it. But it was neither easy nor simple. So why didn’t … (more–>)

The First Dark Age

The causes of the first “Dark Age” have long been the topic of debate among historians and archeologists. Many ideas and theories have been put forward; none have found universal agreement. It’s commonly referred to in scholarly circles as “The Catastrophe.” Earthquakes, drought, migrations (or the more popular single-people migration theory), volcanoes, barbarian raiders, climate change and systemic collapse have all been blamed for the sudden collapse … (more–>)

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