Scripturient: The Dude, the Tao and the Dharma

I suppose it all began with Benjamin Hoff. Hoff was one of the first contemporary writers to attempt to distill Taoism in a lighthearted form for Westerners when he wrote The Tao of Pooh in 1981, a very successful book still in print. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks. ...

Scripturient: Thrasymachus and The Block

There’s a character in Plato’s Republic called Thrasymachus who acts as a foil to Socrates by presenting a series of comments and arguments the old philosopher has to debate and counter. He (Thrasymachus) is based on an actual historical figure, a Sophist from the fifth century BCE. It’s unknown if the views Plato has him ...

Scripturient: The strange life of Bobby Fischer

Forty five years ago this month, a momentous event took place in Iceland that shook the world. After 21 games spread over almost two months, the eccentric American chess master, Bobby Fischer, ended 24 years of Soviet dominance in chess after beating Soviet grandmaster, Boris Spassky. It shook the world at the apex of the ...

Scripturient: Assholes part two: Trump and his local mimics

Back in 2014 I reviewed a book by philosophy professor Aaron James called Assholes. A Theory. I discussed how his study related to politics and politicians, particularly those who call themselves “A-type” personalities (including one or two on the local council). Well James wrote another book, really an addendum to this one, titled Assholes. A ...

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: 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: 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: 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: Designing Type

Karen Cheng’s 2005  book, Designing Type, is the third of the recent books on typography I have received*. Of the three, it is the most technical, appealing to the typophile and design geek more than the average reader. But it’s also a reference for layout and graphic artists looking to choose a specific font for ...

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: Power, ambition, backstabbing

Power grabs. Backstabbing. Lust. Ambition. Conniving. Hypocrisy. A weak but well-meaning ruler. A grasping second in command who viciously usurps power. A bureaucrat jealous of the nobles, jockeying for power and trading favours to get his way. Sleazy nobles selling their loyalty for petty trinkets. A cast of despicable, grasping characters all out for themselves, oblivious 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 ...