Tag: History

2006, Books, Non-Fiction

Children of the Sun (2006) by Alfred W. Crosby

This is a brief but informative and fascinating history of human use of energy. It is so brief that it’s hard not to recommend it because my experience with “big history” books of this ilk is that they are normally gigantic, with a forbidding page count that turns most people off. So, before I get …

2017, Books, Non-Fiction

Killers of the Flower Moon (2017) by David Grann

This book is an eye-opening story that is part true crime, part history and part investigation into one of the worst parts of American history, a story that has seemingly been mostly forgotten, due to the ethnicity of the victims and how it violates American national myths. It is an awful story, but it is …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Boys in the Boat (2013) by Daniel Jams Brown

All I know of the 1936 Olympics is Olympia and Jesse Owens. So this story, the story the American Gold medal-winning 8 man crew, their coxswain, their coach and their boat builder (yes, even him) was completely new to me. I don’t even remember the rowing scenes in Olympia very well. This is an exciting …

2013, Books, Music, Non-Fiction

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion (2013) by Robert Gordon

This book tells the story of Stax Records, but it isn’t just a the story of Stax the record label, as it also places the story in the context of Memphis and the civil rights movement, and there are some very interesting parallels between the rise and fall of Stax and other American businesses.

2012, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Forever [Updated] (2012) by Alan Sepinwall

Sometime while I was making my way through The Wire and Deadwood for the first time, I had an idea for a book. It would be about how a bunch of HBO shows, and a few other select shows, altered the nature of fictional TV series (drama but also comedy) forever, finally bringing TV to …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City (2013) by Russell Shorto

When I was in high school and even when I was in university we learned liberalism like this: The Magna Carta invented “responsible government” Thomas Hobbes invented the liberal constitution but his king had too much power John Locke took the Hobbesian constitution and paired it with better institutions and gave us liberalism Then the …

2016, Books, Non-Fiction

A Natural History of Human Morality (2016) by Michael Tomasello

For the vast majority of recorded human history, we humans have believed that morality comes from somewhere outside of us; from “above,” from the ether, from some kind of benevolent creator, etc. Even as we have learned more and more about how humans evolved from apes who evolved from “lower” animals who evolved from “lower” …

2017, Theatre

Confederation Part I: Confederation and Riel (part of The History of the Village of Small Huts) Live at Soulpepper Tuesday July 11, 2017

This production is the second staging of a 1988 set of two 1-act plays which are part of the 21 1-act play cycle, The History of the Village of Small Huts, performed by Video Cabaret, a troupe that uses tableau and total darkness to give essentially soundbite snippets of Canadian history. I can honestly say …

2011, Books, Non-Fiction

The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) by Steven Pinker

If you watch the news today, you will be told the world is awful. Even if, like me, you do not have cable, you can still get enough news of the awfulness of the world from your antenna or the internet. The news is an endless barrage of controversy and tragedy; controversy over the supposedly …

2014, Books, Non-Fiction

The Quest for a Moral Compass (2014) by Kenan Malik

I have been reading Malik’s blog for more than a few years at this point (I think), in part because I feel like he has much greater insight into the issues around jihadism than most of the people writing in North America (who I’ve had a chance to read). I find his approach not only …

1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, Non-Fiction

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar …

Basketball, Sports

Raptors Best Draft Picks as of 2015

Earlier this season (2014-15), a click-bait article was published on TSN about the “best” Raptors draft picks of all time, given that this was their 20th season and all. They were, according to the author: Bosh Mighty Mouse Mo Pete DeRozan T Mac No explanation was given for why Mo Pete is considered to be …

1989, Books, Non-Fiction

Summer of 49 (1989) by David Halberstam

I am not a Yankees fan or a Sox fan but I am a fan of The Breaks of the Game, probably the best book I have ever read about sports. Summer of 49  is not on that level, but, for someone like me who was not alive during the summer of 1949, and who was …

2008, Movies

Adoration (2008, Atom Egoyan)

Oh, Egoyan’s attempts to understand the past through contrivances and meta-narratives! Gotta love’em. Whereas with Ararat, Egoyan tried to get us to understand the Armenian genocide through making a movie about making a movie about it (yeesh), here he tries to get us to understand suicide bombing and terrorism, and the resulting prejudice, by making …

2011, Books, Non-Fiction

Civilization (2011) by Niall Ferguson

This appears to me to be an attempt by Ferguson to provide a sort of sequel to Guns, Germs and Steel. I say that because both books begin the same way – the attempt to answer a question about Europe’s predominance over the last few hundred years and because Ferguson makes multiple reference’s to Diamond. …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Book of Legendary Lands (2013) by Umberto Eco

This is a history of human beings’ invented worlds, not specifically from fiction but rather (mostly) worlds which human beings invented to explain the unknown parts of the earth, which exploration and science hadn’t yet revealed. The chapters cover worlds such as Atlantis, Shangri La, and numerous other fabled lands. Each chapter is further supported …

2013, Movies

Beyond the Edge (2013, Leanne Pooley)

What could easily have been a bad TV documentary is saved by the rather brilliant idea of actually recreating Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent 60 years later and, amazingly enough, the use of 3D. There are some really clunky, TV-movie worthy ideas here: calendar pages flipping over, altimeter gauges tracking the ascent, CGI …

1971, Books, Non-Fiction

Stillwell and the American Experience in China (1971) by Barbara Tuchman

Tuchman appears to be attempting two disparate things with this book: to tell the story of Joseph Stillwell’s career in the military and to tell the story of US intervention in China from the (first) Chinese revolution to the expulsion of the Kuomintang. She succeeds at the former a lot more than the latter, in …

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

Extraordinary Canadians: Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin (2010, Penguin) by John Raulston Saul

I first learned about Robert Baldwin in grade 7, and I can’t say that particular bit of junior high history moved me much. I was far more interested in the war of 1812 at the time – because I was a boy and because I liked military history, not history. So I can’t say I …

1840, Books, Non-Fiction

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) by Charles Mackay

On the one hand Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is an invaluable chronicle of many of the most ridiculous things human beings have got up to in European history.

Hall of Fame, Hockey, Sports

The Hockey Hall of Fame Bias towards “Last time we won the cup was…”

The more I went through previous Hockey Hall of Fame admissions for a previous blog entry, the more I became aware of a pattern: the sheer number of inductees who played for a franchise’s last cup winner. Memory is an extraordinarily powerful force and it seems like the memory of a franchise’s “last great team” …