Scaramouche

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. That has to rank among the best opening lines in a novel, up there with Dickens’ “It was the best of times…” opening in A Tale of Two Cities. This line, however, is from Rafael Sabatini’s 1921 novel, Scaramouche. Yesterday, I was rummaging through my rather messy and erratic book collection, … (more–>)

Perfect Sense

I have always liked sandbox stories; tales in which the author could stretch his of her imagination, place ordinary characters into a seemingly normal situation, then see what happened when the conditions were changed.* Sandbox environments are virtual places were you can test ideas, explore paths, examine consequences to actions without spilling over into the real world. They have all the appearance of the real world, … (more–>)

Forgery!

Forgery. It’s something that one normally associates with criminals; passing counterfeit bills, scammers, online pirates, people selling fake relics or fake ID. It’s something I would not normally associate with religion. But it’s a significant problem in the book millions of people cherish as infallible, perfect and absolute: the Bible. At least that’s what Bart D. Ehrman contends in his latest book, Forged. If you are … (more–>)

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Published in 1647, The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 aphorisms about life, behaviour, politics, morality, faith, philosophy and society. One comment, on Amazon.ca called it, somewhat unfairly to Machiavelli, “Machiavelli with a soul.” I have been reading it of late as part of my ongoing study of Machiavelli. It was written by Balthasar Gracian (1601-1658), a Spanish-born Jesuit priest, and titled in … (more–>)

Rereading the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

There are many books weighing down my bookshelves into soft, drooping curves, but not many of them have the privilege of tenure. Only a handful have travelled with me for more than a couple of decades; a small selection of tomes that are read, perhaps infrequently, but more than once, and still manage to speak to me every time. Most of my books have, over the … (more–>)

And on the video scene… bargains!

December is always a good month for movie buffs, and for anyone who wants to buy TV series on DVD (no commercials!). Lots of places have before- and after-Xmas sales that make DVD shopping more interesting this month. In particular, the bargain bins are filled with all sorts of films that either never got the media attention they needed to be successful, or simply are too … (more–>)

The Bedside Library

When the books stacked beside the bed get tall enough to hold not only a cup of tea at easy reach, but a plate of toast with no threat of falling, then perhaps it’s time to cull the pile and put aside those books not being actively read. That takes some time to sort out the reading-right-now from the reading-now-and-then, and the reading-for-a-purpose from the reading-when-it-pleases-me books. There is at … (more–>)

A Council Christmas Carol – Part 2

STAVE TWO (continued from Part 1). THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS. I awoke in the dark, late Friday night. Winter days are so short that sometimes it seems a mere moment passes between sunrise and sunset. The day had whizzed by, a flurry of phone calls, reading, emails, walking the dog and shovelling the driveway as the snow continued to fall. By the time Susan came home … (more–>)

Ten Lessons Learned From the Petraeus Affair

After watching the recent, exaggerated – and sordid – upheaval over the story about an extramarital affair that the (now former) head of the CIA had with his biographer, I have come to several conclusions about America, sex, American media and publicity: 1. Americans, who bought millions of copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey“, a poorly-written, highly derivative, pornographic book, and then turned it into a national industry that includes home … (more–>)

The Useless Web

We all know Wikipedia is not always accurate, and sometimes biased. We all know that most internet quotations are wrong attributed or misquoted. We all know that the Web is full of useless, trivial pap like “psychic” hot lines, astrology, creationism and Ann Coulter. Plus it’s replete with the shallow: salacious gossip, celebrity skin, innuendo, pornography, political extremism, angels, UFOs, crop circles, anti-vaccine advocates, religious fundamentalists – … (more–>)

Does product placement run the viewing experience?

I was watching recent episodes of the BBC series, “Sherlock and Strike Back, this week, and towards the end of last night’s show, I wondered, again, why it was British TV shows were generally so much better than American TV. Why did do most British dramas seem more realistic, the characters more believable, the sets less artificial? Yes, having a longer tradition of acting, script writing … (more–>)

The rise of the tenor guitar

Tenor guitars have been around since the 1930s, possibly a few years earlier*, but they’ve never had a big following compared with six-string guitars. That seems to be changing, and I suspect it’s in part due to the incredible popularity of that other four-string guitar derivative: the ukulele. In the past six-twelve months, I’ve been seeing more tenor guitars on the Net, including several new custom … (more–>)

And again, more mis-attributed quotes online

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.” Allegedly by Mark Twain, but unlikely, and not found in any published source I have of Twain’s quotations. Online sources, of course, don’t count as authorities because they lack all credibility. As one person commented on Yahoo, The fact that “Quora attributes it to him” is worthless. Quora is yet another one of … (more–>)

The Oldest Art: 40,800 Years Ago

Paleolithic paintings in El Castillo cave in Northern Spain date back at least 40,800 years — making them Europe’s oldest known cave art, according to new research published June 14 in Science. That’s the lead to a fascinating story about the origins of art. Cave art seems to have been practiced 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. That age could make the artists either the first … (more–>)

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