The Book of Knowledge: 3

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Back in the Mesozoic of my life, I came across a quotation from Giacomo Casanova that, as far as I can remember these days, went “No man can know everything, but every man should attempt to.” For many decades, I didn’t know the source, or whether it was misquoted, misattributed, or simply a fake as we experience so often on most internet quote sites (aka clickbait sites). But it stuck with me. I recently found a more fulsome translation of … click below for more!

The Book of Knowledge: 1

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When I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, having an encyclopedia in your home was the bee’s knees, to use my grandmother’s phrase. It was a sign of sophistication and learning, of culture and wisdom. And being reasonably well-off, because encyclopedias were not inexpensive. I can still hear Jimminy Cricket singing the song (it’s how I learned to spell encyclopedia). Many school libraries had them, although usually only one set and not always the most current or the … click below for more!

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

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We recently watched the Darmok episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, my third time seeing it, and I was struck again at how brilliant and quirky it was. Possibly the best of all the ST:NG’s 178 episodes. And, apparently, a lot of other fans agree with my assessment. Wikipedia describes it: The alien species introduced in this episode is noted for speaking in metaphors, such as “Temba, his arms wide”, which are indecipherable to the universal translator normally used … click below for more!

The Long Read Lost

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“What we read, how we read, and why we read change how we think, changes that are continuing now at a faster pace,” wrote Maryanne Wolf, a neuroscientist, in her book, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World (Harper Paperbacks, 2019). It’s the sequel to her previous book on reading and neuroscience, Proust and the Squid (Harper, 2007). In that latter book, Wolf famously wrote, We are not only what we read, we are how we read. … click below for more!

Bring Back the Salons

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Today if someone mentions a “salon” you probably think about a haircut or manicure. But in the 18th century, prior to the French Revolution, salons were the focus of civil debate, intellectual curiosity, and culture. They were  centres of discussion on everything from manners to literature to philosophy to science. And they were run by women. Salons were the bright stars of the Enlightenment; cauldrons of intellectual, cultural, and social development. More than ever, we need a salon culture today. … click below for more!

Why Science Fiction Matters

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In the past two years, we’ve watched all the Star Trek series (on Netflix) from start to finish, and all the ST movies (on DVD). We just started watching the Battlestar Galactica series on Blu-Ray this past week (which we had seen some years back, but with long gaps between seasons). Both of us love scifi. Although the first ST series was often more space opera than scifi (as the Star Wars series has been), it matured quickly into some … click below for more!

I’m Reading as Fast as I Can

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I don’t recall just when I started putting books aside to read, or perhaps just finish, when I retired. I had this naive, romantic idea that upon retirement, at the age of 65 or thereabouts, I would be able to spend my time puttering around the house and garden, carting a bag of books from place to place, to living out my final years in the warm glow of reading and cups of tea. Books have long lives in my … click below for more!

Dictionary vs Dictionary.com

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Did you know that doxastic is a philosophical adjective relating to an individual’s beliefs? Or that doxorubicin was an antibiotic used in treating leukemia? Or that doxy is a 16th century word for mistress and prostitute? That drack is Australian slang for unattractive or dreary? Drabble means to make wet and dirty in muddy water? A downwarp is a broad depression in the earth’s surface? Drail is a weighted fish hook? Dragonnade means quartering troops on a population while dragonet … click below for more!

Reading as a forgotten art

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Earlier this month (February, 2018), the Globe & Mail published an essay by author Michael Harris titled, “I have forgotten how to read.” In it, he recounted how he recently tried to read a single chapter of a book, but failed. Frustrated, instead turned to TV: Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and … click below for more!

Fire and Fury reviewed

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Dysfunctional. Childish. Self-centred. Narcissistic. Ideologically myopic. Illiterate. Cranky. Capricious. Arrogant. Scheming. Petty. Ill-educated. No, I’m not writing about our local council (although, yes, all those words apply equally to The Block). These are some of the words that came to mind as I read Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Dysfunctional popped into my mind most often as Wolff described the lurching, staggering, fumbling and bumbling of Trump’s staff and family advisers after their unexpected … click below for more!

Collingwood’s first post-literate council

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At the Corporate & Community Services standing committee meeting this week, the committee discussed the Art on the Street festival, its operation and management to be taken over by the BIA. That’s probably a good thing because any affinity to culture and cultural events at the council table evaporated early this term. A cup of yogurt has more culture in it than The Block has. The whole ‘cultural economy’ thing and all the benefits that cultural tourism can bring has … click below for more!

Three, six, seven, nine… how many basic plots?

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When I was in school, back in the last century, I was taught there were three basic plots in which every story ever written could be classified: Man-vs-man, man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself. That was in the days when it wasn’t politically incorrect to use the word man to mean everyone. Today we’d say it differently, use other pronouns, but the meaning is the same. Three is a bit simplistic, sure. The list has been expanded on by authors, academics and critics … click below for more!

Does anyone still read books?

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I came across an early version of this infographic on Facebook and it shook me to my core. You can see it here. The updated and corrected infographic is shown to the right. It is only marginally less distressing than the earlier one. Unfortunately, the early one, although inaccurate and misleading, is still being shared. That early graphic is based on some disputed statistics and unfounded claims, but it’s worth examining to understand my reaction. Reading is so central to … click below for more!

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