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Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Count of Monte Cristo

Many of us grew up on the stories of Alexandre Dumas; from cartoons to comic books, TV series and movies. And, yes, books, albeit often abridged for the young market, with drawings of swordsmen, women in flowing dresses, and the court of kings. Swashbuckling adventures, romances with honour and swordfighting. We may not have always […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Shakespeare Changed Everything

I have been reading an entertaining little book called How Shakespeare Changed Everything, which, as the title suggests, is about the pervasive influence the Bard has had on pretty much everything in our lives ever since he started putting quill to paper. Stephen Marche’s book was described in the NatPost as a, “sprightly, erudite sampling […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Lovecraft’s Tales of Terror

No new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace. Ex Oblivione, 1921. Along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, my teenage reading covered a lot of genres, but I gravitated to scifi and fantasy. Fantasy in those days didn’t offer the same overflowing bookshelves of cookie-cutter tales we find in today’s bookstores. But they […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Ontario’s Assault on Health Care

Earlier this month, the Ontario government took a shot at real medicine when it became the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy. What the government should have done, if it had any real concern about our collective health or our health care system, is ban it. Instead, although it at first seemed an April Fool’s […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: ERB and Barsoom

Tara of Helium rose from the pile of silks and soft furs upon which she had been reclining, stretched her lithe body languidly, and crossed toward the center of the room, where, above a large table, a bronze disc depended from the low ceiling. Her carriage was that of health and physical perfection—the effortless harmony […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Thurber’s Writings & Drawings

Books of James Thurber‘s cartoons and writing were always on the shelves at my grandparents’ home, as well as on my parents’ bookshelves. I read them, as I did everything else on those shelves, when I was quite young. I still remember his odd, eccentric cartoons with their primitive lines but sharp and bizarre wit, although […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Reading Ukulele Tabs

One of the things I want to discuss in our upcoming CPLUG workshop is how to read tab sheet music. In this post I’ve give you some pointers so you can practice on your own. It’s worth learning to read tabs because it gives you the ability to play melodies and solo pieces without having […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Marx, Darwin and Machiavelli

What do these three men – three of the world’s greatest thinkers – have in common? Science? Economics? Politics? Their impact on culture and society? Their foresight or insight? Their importance to the development of modern thought? Their continued relevance today? The depth and breadth of their wisdom? The quality of their writing? Yes, they […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Happy Talk

A recent study proved an old notion – the Pollyanna Hypothesis – that there is a “universal human tendency to ‘look on and talk about the bright side of life’” according to a team of scientists at the University of Vermont. The story was reported on Science Daily recently. Reading through newspapers, magazines, websites, music lyrics and […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Book List Game

In a recent story titled “Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the Eight Books Every Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read,” the eminent astrophysicist listed his top eight book titles – from a Reddit conversation that was going on back in December, 2011. Here are the books he chose back then (check the linked story above […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: 47 Ronin Reviewed

This week, after watching the 2013 film, 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, I had to wonder why Hollywood felt it necessary to take a powerful story, a great historical drama, and mess with it. And, of course, why they would put Keanu Reeves into a film about 18th century Japanese samurai. Or, for that matter, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Jack Finney’s Time and Again

Ever read Jack Finney? I knew the name, but I never read any of his books. I knew he was the author of the 1955 pulp novel, The Body Snatchers. This became the basis for the 1956 movie, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That is one of my all-time favourite B-films, one I can watch […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Julius Caesar: Best of the Bard?

For my money, Julius Caesar is simply Billy Shakespeare’s best ever play. I mean, what’s not to like in it? It has some stonking great speeches in it – including one of his top five ever (Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen….”) as well as a passel of memorable lines you can quote at parties (Who among […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Poems That Make You Cry

I cannot read Dylan Thomas’ poem, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night‘ without a lump in my throat. I read it at my father’s funeral, several years ago, so for me it has a personal context that retains its emotional impact. Many poems move me or touch my heartstrings, however, that have no such personal […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: A Modern Take on Gorgias

Plato’s dialogue Gorgias is mostly about the difference between content and form. Or rather it’s about how Socrates saw the difference between philosophy – content and truth – and rhetoric – form and words. Both of which are practiced and studied today in much different forms from what they were in ancient Greece. But the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Crito: Doing What’s Right

In his dialogue, Crito, Plato has Socrates gently admonish his friend, Crito, for his concern over what the uneducated public might think, or might spread by rumour and gossip, and encourages him instead to focus his attention on those ‘reasonable people’ who know the facts and in doing what is right: “Why, my dear Crito, should we pay […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Skepticism Too Easily Slides Into Cynicism

Years spent in the media, plus decades of independent practice as a writer and social critic honed my native skepticism into a protective psychological barrier against a wide range of social ailments and inappropriate, often dangerous beliefs. It has made me question motives, statements, logic and conclusions, and search for the underlying truths. It motivated me to explore, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Best of Times

I was overcome this weekend with an urge to re-read Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities. I suspect it’s because of its brilliant, powerful opening. That opening epitomizes for me Collingwood’s municipal election and the dichotomy between the two camps: positive versus negative. It was the best of times, it was the worst […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Plato’s Apology

Plato records the trial and death of Socrates in four dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo. I’ve been reading The Apology this week and finding in it references that reflect well in today’s world, particularly in politics.* In The Apology – which meant defence in Greek, not saying sorry as it does today – Socrates defends […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Utility Animal

In the July/August edition of Pets Magazine (the Cat Care issue) there are two articles that caused me concern. One is “The Loyalty and Bravery of a Cat” (p.28), the other is “Quick-Thinking Cat Saves the Day.” (p.26). The latter is a pet profile from the Purina Hall of Fame that honours pets for “extraordinary […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Examined Lives

Thought and deed. Thought and life. How does a person’s life, their upbringing, their daily toil affect their deepest thoughts, their beliefs, faith and passions? And as outsiders looking in, can we understand a person’s thinking by examining their lives? Can we understand their philosophy that way? I don’t know. Biographies describe the events of […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Extra Virginity

For some time before I got this book, I’ve been aware that there is more to olive oil than meets the eye. Or tongue. How much more really was startling. When I started reading Tom Mueller’s 2012 book, Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, I was simply amazed at how little I […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Some Latin Quotes to Ponder

Here are some translations from Latin quotations I took from a few books of mine, notably The Anchor Book of Latin Quotations, compiled by Norbert Guterman (Anchor-Doubleday, New York, 1966 and reprinted 1990) and Cave Canem: A Miscellany of Latin Words & Phrases, by Lorna Robinson (Walker & Co., New York, 2008). Some of these […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Unexamined Life

“The unexamined life,” Socrates declared in his trial, “is not worth living.” His student, Plato, wrote down those words in his account of Socrates’ trial and death, in the book, Apology.* Socrates was speaking for himself and about the value of his life as a thinking person. He was on trial in 399 BCE for impiety – […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Emperor’s Handbook

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was considered the last of the “Five Good Emperors” of the Roman Empire. He lived 121-180 CE and died while on campaign in Germany. Like many Roman thinkers of his day, he followed the popular Stoic philosophy and his writing became an important document in the late Stoic phase of classical […]