As I promised in a previous post, here’s my almost certainly true and accurate explanation of why the language you’re reading now is the result of one man’s writing back in the 14th century. Yes, of course, I mean Chaucer; author of The Canterbury Tales. Thanks to him, you’re reading this in modern English. In his day, there wasn’t a cohesive form of English, but rather several dialects that were all Middle English (see map); each was influenced by its own … click below for more!
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 The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality.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 … click below for more!
Dr. Linda Manyguns has stylized herself as Dr. linda manyguns because she stopped using uppercase (capital) letters to protest the “symbols of hierarchy.” Manyguns is the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at Mt. Royal University in Alberta. On her own office’s website, she wrote: we resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize. the office of indigenization and decolonization supports acts that focus on inclusion and support the right of all people … click below for more!
“We truly can’t praise the love and pursuit of wisdom enough,” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero in one of his last works, How to Grow Old (De Senectute; aka On Aging or On Old Age), “since it allows a person to enjoy every stage of life free from worry.” “Ancient wisdom for the second half of life,” is how Philip Freeman subtitles his translation of Cicero’s little book in his 2016 Princeton University edition. Cicero wrote his essay (not really a … click below for more!
I first came across Julian Jaynes and his controversial (or at least provocative) book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, back in the late 1970s. I bought a copy, and read part of it, but my life was in a bit of turmoil back then, and I didn’t get too far along in it. Over the years, the book left my shelves, possibly given away or traded in. It wasn’t until two years ago that … click below for more!
An article on the Global News site titled “Fewer Canadians plan to wear poppies this Remembrance Day, poll finds” made me think again about what Remembrance Day is for. The article opens: Fewer people plan to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies or wear poppies this year, according to a poll from Historica Canada that also suggests knowledge of Canadian military history is dwindling. To be fair, I’d suggest knowledge of pretty much everything factual is dwindling. One only need look … click below for more!
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!
It is common practice to look back and conflate the events of the past with those of the present, seeking parallels, resonance, and answers from previous events that help explain today’s. We learn from others, from their experiences, and we like to find commonalities in our shared experiences, even from our or other’s historic past. We see ourselves reflected in our past and we sometimes mistake that reflection for the reality. Machiavelli did it in both The Prince and The … click below for more!
For those readers interested in the voyages of the late-16th-early-17th century adventurer, Henry Hudson, or in the European explorations of North America, I have recently scanned and edited a copy of Juet’s Journal into Word format and placed it online here. Here is my website on Henry Hudson, too. I haven’t done much with it of late, but that may be slowly changing as I find I have more time these days, during my recovery. The journal documents how Hudson … click below for more!
Whenever I see a lawn with dandelions, I think, “This is the home of civilized people. This is the home of people who care about the environment and their community. This is where bees are welcome.” When I see a monoculture lawn, bereft of weeds or dandelions, I think, “Here is the home of an anti-social family; a place where life is restricted, wildlife discouraged; where community and the environment don’t matter.” I feel the same when I see a … click below for more!
January 1 is NOT the start of a new decade. To the CBC and the other arithmetically-challenged media who insist otherwise: it isn’t. You just don’t understand how to count to 10. No matter how you spin it, 9 years is not 10. And even if it was, starting or ending a decade or any other period of time has no magical significance. Neither history nor culture, neither politics nor science work along calendrical timelines and our own calendar is … click below for more!
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!
It’s at this time of the year, as we approach Remembrance Day, that I think most about my family, especially those who have died. I wish I had known when I was younger what I know today, so I could have asked them more about their lives, and about their service in the military, about their wars. I have read a lot about those wars, about the military and political history of the last century; it’s a topic I never … click below for more!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfwuvMpmQJM “Godless – The Truth Beyond Belief” investigates one of the last frontiers in civil liberties and human rights: Atheism. So reads the opening sentence on the website of a new film about atheism and society. It asks, “can you be good without god?” Well, yes, you can. That’s the whole point of secular humanism, philosophy and the entire Buddhist faith. Morality is a choice we make, not a divine command. It also hides another question within its folds: can you … click below for more!