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Category Archives: Culture

Wigtown podcast with Ken and Astrid

Here at the abbey in April 2020, at the baby’s six-month-old half-birthday party. For some years now, Ken and Astrid have been regulars at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland. This year, because of Covid-19, the book festival will be virtual. As one of the virtual events, here is an excellent 30-minute podcast from Wigtown […]

Donegal tweed

Click here for high-resolution version. I seem to have become a collector of vintage Harris tweed jackets, after a visit to the Isle of Harris and Lewis in 2019. That’s a slippery slope, because, before long, the tweed habit leads to Donegal tweed as well. Much has been written about Harris tweed. Less has been […]

Horatio Hornblower

Ioan Gruffud as Horatio Hornblower Most of my old DVDs are in a box in the attic. But the boxed set of Horatio Hornblower DVDs is always on the TV stand, ready for an emergency escape from the here and now. The series ran from 1997 until 2003 on ITV in the U.K. and A&E […]

Virtual emigration, anyone?

My 20-year-old Sony headphones, well worn but still working Ken, who is now back in Scotland after being stuck in the U.S. for six months during the Covid-19 lockdown, writes: “I can’t tell you how detoxed I already feel from U.S. politics…. No more Trump signs, no more awful religion, no more right wing madness…. […]

Not quite what the 2nd Amendment crowd expected

Inside a Ruger gun factory, from a Ruger “how it’s made” video We’re starting to get data on who has been buying so many guns this year in America. Guess what. It’s not just old rural white guys. It’s women and African-Americans and liberals. A news release on Aug. 24 from the National Shooting Sports […]

A flood of new data about prehistory

Who We Are and How We Got Here. By David Reich. Oxford University Press, 2018. 368 pages. During the past ten years, gene sequencing machines have become available that are thousands of times cheaper to operate than earlier machines. The analysis of human genes can yield an astonishing amount of information about prehistory, an area […]

Oxford, Tolkien, and the fair speech

From my visit to Oxford, August 2019 A few days ago I finished my third reading of The Two Towers, and now I’m on book 3. The landscapes of Middle-earth are lucid in my imagination. And yet I find myself thinking again and again about Oxford. This story (the best story, I believe, in English […]

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer. Simon & Schuster, 1959. 1,252 pages. If I had read this book five years ago, I would have read it pretty much purely as history. Barack Obama was still president of the United States. Having elected its first black president and experienced eight years […]

Germany, redeemed

Germany today: Hamburg, Nov. 12, 2017 I have only about 150 pages to go in William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I just finished reading the horrifying chapter on the atrocities of the Nazis. Shirer also describes what the Nazis had in mind, had they won the war. They would have […]

The long history of hiding in the forest

Deer in the Forest. Painting by Eugen Krüger, Germany, 1832-1876. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click here for high-resolution version. I’m about three quarters done with William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. On April 9, 1940, Hitler’s armed forces started their attack on Denmark and Norway. Tiny Denmark fell quickly. Norway had the […]