CJ's blog

Memento Mori, and That's OK

Wax vanitas, Europe, 1701-1800

Let's talk about death. It's lovely out, spring rains are greening the world and trees are blossoming. The sun's ramped up its intensity, warming away whatever's left of winter's chill ... and I want to talk about death. Amid all this vitality, it's natural for thoughts (mine, anyway) to drift toward the inevitable, the end with a capital "E." No, I'm not naturally morbid. I just believe that living with a healthy respect for mortality enhances my appreciation of the day.

The Most Enjoyable Book of the Year -- The Costa Book Awards for 2013

Front Jacket Cover for Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

It all began in 1919, when the University of Edinburgh presented the James Tait Black Prize to Hugh Walpole for his novel, Secret City and, in the biography category, to H. Festing Jones for his memoir of Samuel Butler. 

The James Tait Black has the distinction of being Britain's oldest literary award and, with it, a trend was born. Over the years, book awards have proved wildly popular, with prizes for individual genres, first books, etc. You name it, there's a prize. Typically, recognition is given for the "best" book in a given category -- novel, biography, poetry, science fiction/fantasy, mystery, graphic novel, children's book, young adult -- which seems a tall-enough order to judge.

April Means Pilgrimage

Canterbury Tales, 1929-31 edition with illustrations by Eric Gill.

April means so many things -- taxes, springtime, poetry, baseball and, naturally, a pilgrimage to Canterbury.

Come again on that last bit? Pilgrimage? Well, yes, if you were a medieval person with a) a guilty conscience, b) the means to travel, and c) the ability to leave family and work for months at a time, you might view April as prime time to hit the road and get thyself to the nearest holy site for redemption. Given the general lawlessness of 14th century England, it would be preferable to find a group of well-armed, like-minded souls heading in your direction. Along the way, you might share your history and tell a few stories to pass the time.

'The Sun is Low': Aspects of the Winter Solstice

Winter solstice, Newgrange, Ireland.

I have news for you: 

The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone

Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course

The sea running high...

       -- Anonymous, Ireland, 9th Century
 

Stags and sea?  In Denver?  Not so much, but wind and cold are certainly ...usually ...typical of winter on the Front Range.  And darkness?  Oh yes.  Daylight has been in steady decline since the autumnal equinox on September 22, and will not increase until after the winter solstice on December 21.  Whether you are a modern commuter coping with

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #5 - Money in Politics, Part 2

Hand placing ballot in box with American flag in the background.

At this phase in the election cycle, political ads are a staple of primetime TV and just about every other sort of commercial communications media. While we're accustomed to hearing the words, "I'm Barack Obama / Mitt Romney and I approve this message," the entities claiming responsibility for ads are often unfamiliar to say the least.

To evaluate claims made in political ads, voters can certainly turn to fact-checking resources but there's a case to be made for recognizing the sources of political advertisements and what biases they bring to the table. In this week's post, we'll consider the mandate for disclosure in political ads and identify ways to determine who put up the money and what they stand for.

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