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

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 ...

Scripturient: Book collecting: snobbery or reading passion?

The book has always been a sign of status and refinement; a declaration of self-worth – even for those who hate to read. That’s the lead into a recent piece on Aeon Magazine about book collecting and collectors. It’s also about reading and the snobbery of readers. Fascinating piece. For me, anyway. Pretty much everything ...

Scripturient: The hospital, the trolley and political ethics

In its decision about the redevelopment of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital, Collingwood Council is evidently taking the track less travelled, trolleyology-wise. Seen as an ethical issue, our council has chosen to act against the greater good. Trolleyology is the somewhat humourous name given to philosophical intellectual exercises or thought problems about our ethics ...

Scripturient: The dystopian present

If there is one good thing to come out of the election of Donald Trump, it has been the renewed interest in a certain genre of literature. Sales of dystopian novels have skyrocketed on Amazon, in particular what might be called “The Big Three” of dystopian tales: George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, ...

Scripturient: Empathy and The Dog Allusion

Empathy, writes Martin Rowson, is one of the things that make us human, make us civilized, allows us to interact without tearing one another’s throats out. Without it, we’d have no civilization; we’d be like the beasts of the fields. And we’d have no dogs or gods, either. Empathy is what makes us own pets ...

Scripturient: Reading Moby Dick

Recently, coincidental to while I was reading Herman Melville’s classic novel, I read a story that some folks in Vancouver took offence to the name of a restaurant: Moby Dick’s Fish & Chips. Apparently the property overseers mistook the “Dick” in the name for a euphemism for penis, rather than reading the name of the ...

Scripturient: Auden, Trump and poetry

There’s a poem by W. H. Auden (1907-73) going the internet rounds these days with suggestions of Auden’s prescience towards the latest American president and contemporary politics. It’s a powerful piece, but the bad news for conspiracy theorists is that Auden was a poet, not a prophet. A good poet, even a great poet, mind ...

Scripturient: On growing old

No man is so old that he does not think himself able to live another year. (Nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere) I was thinking of that line from Cicero this week when I attended a friend’s drop-in post-Christmas party. Most of the many people in attendance were my ...

Scripturient: The vulgar crowd

Profanum vulgus. The vulgar crowd. Not, however, as you might suspect, an apt description of the remaining few supporters of The Block that rules Collingwood Council. While perhaps appropriately described, to me that small handful are better described as naïve, gullible and even intellectually vulnerable, moreso than merely vulgar. But that’s not what this post ...

Scripturient: Godless – The Truth Beyond Belief

“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 ...

Scripturient: Eheu fugaces, Postume…

Alas, Postumus, the swift years slip away. Those words are one translation of the opening line of the 14th Ode in the second book of Horace’s carminas, or songs: Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume/labuntur anni… * For me, it’s his most moving piece, a bittersweet acceptance of mortality; the inevitability of age and death. Something no ...

Scripturient: The subtle art of Mark Manson

I have a healthy skepticism towards anything labelled a “self-help” book – especially those that aim at making your life happier or more fulfilled through some fad, superstition or pseudoscience. I am, as you know from this blog, cynical towards the unending volume of New Age woo hoo, fads and pseudoscience that pollutes bookstore shelves ...

Scripturient: Does anyone still read books?

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. ...

Scripturient: Horace and him. And maybe me, too.

Horace and Me, subtitled Life lessons from an Ancient Poet, is a recent book by Harry Eyres (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2013) about his efforts to connect the dots of his modern life to meaning via the ancient circuitry of a classical Latin poet. It attracted me because these past few years I have been reading such classics ...

Scripturient: 13 Ways to Kill Collingwood

I found it! I stumbled across the secret manifesto The Block is using to destroy Collingwood. It’s in a book called “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” (Frontenac House, 2010) by Doug Griffiths and Kelley Clemmer. And pretty much everything in it outlines The Block’s not-so-secret plan to turn this community into rubbish. I know, ...

Scripturient: Wolf Hall reviewed

I have just finished watching the six-part BBC series, Wolf Hall, based on the two novels by Hilary Mantel. I am also about halfway through my reading of the first of the two, Wolf Hall (with Bring up the Bodies waiting in the bedside pile). The series conflates the two novels into six one-hour episodes. Given ...

Scripturient: Fowler for the 21st Century

On the desk of every writer, every reporter, every editor, every PR director and every communications officer is a small library of reference books. A good dictionary (Oxford, American Heritage, Merriam Webster, Random House but gods forbid, never a generic Webster’s). A thesaurus (likely Roget’s). A style guide (CP for Canadians, or AP for Americans… ...

Scripturient: Everything Flows

Tonight’s book-with-wine discussion is about Vasily Grossman‘s novel, Everything Flows (New York Review Book, USA, 2009). It was his final work, and left unfinished at the time of his death, in 1964. It’s not a difficult read, but it isn’t easy. Readers unfamiliar with Soviet history, particularly the Stalin era, will not understand much of it. ...

Scripturient: Frutiger vs Palatino

In a recent review of Sarah Hyndman’s book, Why Fonts Matter, I casually commented that, You can no more adequately comment on the relevance and impact on the viewer of, say, Frutiger versus Palatino, without discussing the design and layout in which it is set… The point of which was not to single out those ...

Scripturient: Reading Letters: Designing for Legibility

The human brain is truly a remarkable machine.* We can see a bunch of lines and in that same brain turn them into an M and know it’s not a V or an N or a K or W. Yet M isn’t a ‘thing’ – it’s an abstract representation of a sound that itself has ...

Scripturient: Why Fonts Matter

The first problem I have when receiving a new book on typography is that I spend far too much time looking up the typefaces described or sampled therein, and searching for them online, instead of reading. Then I start looking at (and critiquing) the typefaces chosen for the book itself. It’s a trees-not-the-forest kind of ...

Scripturient: The Postmortal

Mortality. We all get it. It’s the one one incurable ailment all humans succumb to without a chance of succor. Mortality is always 100% fatal. No medicine, no therapy, no diet cure or magic pill. But as you read this, scientists are researching, seeking clues to unlock the mystery and, potentially, cure us of aging,of death ...

Scripturient: Moses Revealed

He was a murderer, a sorcerer, a slave owner. He betrayed his adopted family and led a rebellion against them. He was a charismatic firebrand, an oracle, and a misfit. He fluctuated between fits of rage and periods of meekness. He led his forces to commit what today we’d call war crimes and acts of ...

Scripturient: Alger Hiss, Richard Nixon and Collingwood

Remember the case of Alger Hiss? I didn’t think so. It was before your time. Mine too. But let me jog your memory, just in case you’re older than I am. Or perhaps just well read in recent history. Hiss was a US government employee, a diplomat at the centre of a House Un-American Advisory Committee ...

Scripturient: Demagogues and dictators

I’m not sure why they fascinate me, but I’ve been reading about demagogues and dictators for many decades now and still can’t seem to get enough of them. Of course, it’s in part because I like to read about politics in all its forms and fashions, but there’s something more than just celebrity watching with these. There’s ...