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: A cup of mao jian

The tea bag is an example of remarkable serendipity; an unexpected, simple invention that changed the world. But it was entirely unintended. Tea, from the camelia sinenis tree, is the most popular beverage in the world after water, and the most popular hot beverage period. Before the tea bag appeared, barely over a century ago, ...

Scripturient: Neanderthals: a love story

Squat, hairy, broad shoulders, a big nose, beetle-browed with a low forehead. As Blind Willie McTell wrote in his classic song, Statesboro Blues, “I know ain’t good lookin’, but I swear I’m some sweet woman’s angel child.” That line might have been written for early Neanderthal cousins. First described as dim-witted and brutish, our more ...

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: Where is Che now that we need him?

Maybe it’s simple nostalgia, but it seems to me the world was a lot better off when the Soviet Union was around. Really. Bear with me while I explain. When the USSR was the main enemy of our loudly-proclaimed free and democratic society, we struggled to measure ourselves against its yardstick. If the USSR claimed ...

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: A little musical Canadiana

Among my collection of many (many!) vintage song books and song sheets, I have a bundle of patriotic music from WWI. I was browsing through them again this week and found several songs written and published during the war, either as songs for the soldiers (usually cheering them on to war or hoping for their ...

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 ...

Scripturient: Some of the Dharma

I first started reading Jack Kerouac in 1968, a battered paperback copy of On the Road, reprinted a decade after its original publication and kept in a pocket of a pack sack for easy reference as I hitchhiked around the country one summer. The book enjoyed a small resurgence of interest as the early hippies imagined themselves as ...

Scripturient: 1914: My Grandfathers’ Year

As I read further into Max Hastings’ book, Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, I wondered, as I have done in the past when reading similar books about that time, what my grandfathers must have felt when that war broke out. What it meant to them and their worldview, and to their imagined futures, both ...

Scripturient: Mao: The Unknown Dictator

Although I have read many biographies of the European dictators, and many histories of Europe and the Americas in the first half of the 20th century, I hadn’t read much about modern China until recently. Mao: The Unknown Story (by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday) was the first full-length biography I’ve read about Mao Tse ...

Scripturient: Thirty Seven Days

Back in the mid-1970s, the BBC launched a dramatic, 13-part series called Fall of Eagles, about the last decades of the 19th century and the lead-up to World War One. It also chronicled the end of the royal dynasties in the aftermath of the war. It was a brilliant series, sweeping in its broad brush ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Grey Wolf Escapes

Forget your chemtrails, your big pharma, your New World Order; forget UFO abductions, Bigfoot and GMOs. This is the granddaddy conspiracy theory of them all. This one makes all the rest look like grade school gossip. It makes the petty conspiracies of local bloggers look like the diaphanous piffle they really are.* What is it? That Adolf ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Rest In Peace, Mary Chadwick

Mary Bernice Chadwick passed away quietly in the morning of April 13, 2015 in her room in the Tony Stacey Veterans’ Care Centre. She had awakened that morning, and spoke briefly to staff, but nodded off shortly after. She never awoke. She was 95 years old and lived a full, rich life, one of remarkable ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Pompeii: Swords-and-Sandals Flop

As a film setting, the town of Pompeii in the first century CE is a lot like the deck of the Titanic in 1912: no amount of special effects or clever script writing is going to save it from the disaster awaiting. As a film, Pompeii has a lot of the former, but precious little of ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Bully Pulpit

“I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!” US President Theodore Roosevelt uttered those words in office (reported in the February 27, 1909, issue of The Outlook magazine), coining the phrase ‘bully pulpit’ in referring to the presidency as an ideal platform from which to expound his ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Conrad Black: Off the Rails

I generally read Conrad Black‘s columns for their entertainment value, but I also read them for the language. Black is the best tosser of pithy epithets since Spiro Agnew*. And like the former US VP, he’s a pompous git who puffs up his intellectual feathers like a pigeon in heat – that puffery of sound ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Weaponized Aryan Jesus?

The term “weaponized Jesus” comes from an article I read on politicsusa.com, from November 2013, titled “The Religious Right With Their Weaponized Jesus Are Not Christians.”  It’s worth a read, if you enjoy the political-religious debate. I eventually traced the phrase back to a 2010 story in Mother Jones. It’s a good description of the way ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Human Smoke

“The truth of history,” Napoleon wrote in his memoirs while exiled on St. Helena, “is a fable agreed upon.” Agreed upon mostly by the victors, one should add. The losers seldom agree with it. In 1865, Mark Twain added in his work, Following the Equator: “The very ink with which all history is written is ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hate Crimes Against Non-believers Growing

We all know about the hate crimes religious believers commit against one another, against people of a different faith. It’s headlines news, almost daily. Protestants against Catholics. Sunnis against Shiites. Muslims against Christians. Hindus against Muslims. Buddhists against Muslims. Christians against pagans. Christians against Jews. Muslims against Jews. Cults against anyone and everyone against cults. ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Poor King Henry VII

As Rodney Dangerfield might have said had he been cast in a role as Henry VII, “I don’t get no respect.” Henry VII is one of those English kings who never seem to get any attention, outside the rarefied realms of academia. Only of late, it seems, have a few writers and TV producers turned their ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Timothy Leary Was Right. Maybe.

This is your brain on drugs. Or rather, the right-hand image is your brain on psilocybin. The other side is your brain on a non-psychedelic drug. Researchers recently discovered some amazing facts about how our brains work on some chemicals. And some psychedelic drugs prove to have pretty amazing effects. But don’t try this at ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Cold War

I was reminded by an article on Slate that the (to me) iconic film of the Cold War, Fail Safe, was released fifty years ago this week. And as the article records, more people remember the satirical film, Dr. Strangelove than the more chilling drama, Fail Safe. Perhaps they have forgotten it, as they have ...