Ars Poetica

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Horace’s Ars Poetica, or the Art of Poetry, was written as a 476-line poem in a letter to his friend, the Roman senator  Lucius Calpurnius Piso (Lucius) and his two sons, around 19 BCE. It was known for a time as the “Epistle to the Pisos” until 95CE when the critic  Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (Quintilian) called it the Ars Poetica in his a twelve-volume textbook on rhetoric, the Institutio Oratoria. The name stuck. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) was popular during the Renaissance when Latin was … click below for more ↓

Milton Was Wrong

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In 1644, the English poet and pamphleteer John Milton wrote an impassioned defence of free speech (or, more factually, against censorship of print and in favour of restriction-free publication) called the Areopagitica. It was subtitled A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England. In it, Milton argued that, given the choice between truth and lies, people were wise enough to see what was true. And that people’s character grew stronger when presented with a wide variety … click below for more ↓

Smith, Rock, and the Trivialization of Western Culture

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If Neil Postman were alive today, sitting in a bar or café with Chris Hedges, I wonder which one would say “I told you so!” first after seeing social media this past week? The story that clogged the social media pipes this week was the slap one actor gave another on stage during the performance of the annual onanism festival called the Oscars. And as soon as it happened, even while it was occurring, a shitstorm of comments, opinions and reportage flooded social media. Every … click below for more ↓

Kerouac’s Haikus

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Haiku is like a razor blade: small, light, but yet strong and incredibly sharp. Haiku says “Look over there!” and then smacks you from the other side. Haiku is the neutron star of poetry: stunning density combined with astounding brightness. Haiku swims in a sea of metaphor, darting like quick, bright fish among the forest of words. Haiku has a formal definition: “an unrhymed verse form of Japanese origin having three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively. It is also described as “a … click below for more ↓

Wild Fruits

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When he died of tuberculosis in his mother’s home, in 1862, 44-year-old Henry David Thoreau had already made his mark on the world with the publication of several books and numerous essays, including Civil Disobedience, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, The Maine Woods, A Yankee in Canada, and his classic, Walden, or Life in the Woods. I trust we’re all familiar with Thoreau’s major works, at least their titles, particularly Walden (first published in 1854). Thoreau — or at least some of … click below for more ↓

Socrates and Saunderson

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In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates debates with three sophists — Gorgias the rhetorician and his pupils Polus, and Callicles — about justice, power, morality, and virtue. Socrates also questions the value of oratory and rhetoric — the crafts of the sophists — in contemporary politics and whether they do good for the people. Spoiler alert: he’s not convinced they are for the good. You can read the somewhat stuffy Benjamin Jowett translation here and here, or read David Horan’s more modern translation here. I realize … click below for more ↓

Musings on the First Tercet of Dante’s Inferno

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Back in December, before Godaddy broke my blog through technical incompetence, I had written a piece about the first stanza in Inferno, the first book of Dante’s trilogy, The Divine Comedy. Since that post seems irretrievably lost, I decided to write another in the same vein. So please bear with me if this seems redundant. It all began innocently enough on Tuesday late last year when I was searching through my bookshelves in search of something I can no longer recall, and instead of what … click below for more ↓

Ammon Shea is My New Hero

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Eyyyyyyy Wssup guys This was the entire first post that started a thread in a group I belonged to on Facebook. I think seeing it aged me a decade, and encouraged me to leave the group afterwards. Walking barefoot on broken glass would cause me less distress. All the poster needed to do to make me despair enough to seriously consider slitting my wrists would have been to write “yall” instead of “guys” (thus removing any actual words from the post) I tire of the … click below for more ↓

Are Secular Nations Happier?

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Are less-religious or more secular nations happier than religious ones? Studies suggest yes. Personally, I would certainly be happier in a more secular nation if it meant fewer angry, nasty, fanatic believers like the Westboro Baptist congregation (see picture, right), or the faux-faith anti-mask/anti-vaccine, pro-disease protestors,* or any of the frothing anti-choice, anti-abortion protestors who appear around medical clinics. I suspect many among us would also live much more happily without their disruptive, often vicious, pseudo-religious behaviour. But as a democratic, liberal society we are … click below for more ↓

Casanova Dies in Bohemia

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At the end of his long and storied life, Giacomo Casanova found himself a lonely man in a damp, cold castle in Bohemia, a small German kingdom distant from all the places where he had lived and loved. The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality. He is from an older world, a more refined and gentile world than everyone around him, and as the 19th-century approaches, he struggles to avoid becoming a fossil. … click below for more ↓

Montaigne on Ketchup-Flavoured Cheetos

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In his famous work, Essays, Michel de Montaigne, channelling the Epicureans, wrote that, “All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim. (Book I: On the Power of Imagination).” And I have to admit that what we euphemistically call “junk food” is a widespread pleasure that many of us enjoy these days. Of course, Montaigne, ever the skeptic, also wrote, “Que sais je?” (What do I know? Book II, Ch. 12). I did it again: I used the name of my … click below for more ↓

Musings on The Tempest and Council

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It was a dark and stormy night… Shakespeare’s last solo-authored play, The Tempest, opens with a storm (the eponymous tempest) in which a group of elite passengers (a king, a duke, relatives, and courtly hangers-on) gets washed overboard (or jump) while the working sailors remain safe onboard their ship. In fact, the working class are sturdy, brave, and steadfast as they struggle to save the ship and passengers, while the panicked elites run around like headless chickens on the deck, wailing and bemoaning, afraid for … click below for more ↓

A Meeting of the Minds?

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Niccolo Machiavelli and Michel de Montaigne never met, nor could they have — Machiavelli died six years before Montaigne was born, and they lived about 1,200 km (800 miles) apart — but imagine the conversations they could have had if they had lived at the same time and close enough to visit one another, to have dinner together. Imagine the hard-nosed philosopher of the body politic and the curious philosopher of inner space, together, discussing humankind, discussing ways of living, ways of governing, discussing the … click below for more ↓

The Beatles: Songs and Lives

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This week I finished re-reading The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, the best biography I’ve read of the group that defined music, culture, and style in the Sixties: the era I grew up in. I’ve read several other bios in the past, both of the band and of the individual members, although there are many more in print that I haven’t read. But this is the only one I’ve re-read. And it was well worth it, to recall in such detail those years. Almost … click below for more ↓

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