Alexander the Great, son of a god or mentally ill?

With ambitions far beyond what you’d expect from a rip-and-run raider, he apparently believed he was more than a mere mortal

Alexander the Great, son of a god or mentally ill?In the summer of 1956, my father took myself and my younger brother to see Richard Burton play the title role of Alexander the Great. It wasn’t my father’s idea. Alerted by a Dell Comics adaptation, I’d made a pitch for educational value. The movie was, in retrospect, something of a clunker. Replete with blonde…

Will Trudeau 2019 follow in the footsteps of Trudeau 1972?

Pierre Trudeau lost favour with voters and ended up with a minority government. A similar fate may await his son

Will Trudeau 2019 follow in the footsteps of Trudeau 1972?There are obvious similarities between the political situation of Justin Trudeau in 2019 and that of his father in 1972. In 1972, Pierre Trudeau’s personal magic wasn’t as alluring as during the heady days of 1968’s Trudeaumania. The same can be said for today’s prime minister vis-à-vis 2015. The 1972 election caught people by surprise.…

The first rock ’n’ roll Christmas

That a guy nicknamed Elvis the Pelvis had tackled sacred songs was offensive and sacrilegious to many. But it was perfect marketing

The first rock ’n’ roll ChristmasTeenagers in the 1950s couldn’t escape the music of their parents. Despite radio’s new-fangled Top 40 and the attendant infiltration of rock ’n’ roll, the sounds of the past were all around. This was particularly the case for Christmas songs. But things began to change in late October 1957, thanks to Elvis Presley announcing the…

Brexit drama has historical echoes

The battle over Brexit isn’t the equivalent of the Second World War, but the outcome is shaping up to be a disaster on its own terms

Brexit drama has historical echoesFor sheer drama – or maybe that should be melodrama – Brexit’s unfolding twists and turns are hard to beat. If you’d scripted a fictional narrative along these lines, you’d be liable to criticism for one flight of fancy too many. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s last-minute decision to postpone a parliamentary vote on her…

Christmas songs and the power of nostalgia

Bing Crosby's version of White Christmas is recognized as the best-selling single record ever

Christmas songs and the power of nostalgiaIt’s surely a personal quirk, but I must confess that the relatively modern Christmas songs, like All I Want for Christmas Is You and Fairytale of New York leave me cold. Yes, I know they’re critically acclaimed and immensely popular, not to mention enormous money-spinners. However, they don’t tickle my fancy at all. Perhaps it’s a…

The political fragility of George H.W. Bush

The late U.S. president had an authenticity problem that would never quite go away

The political fragility of George H.W. BushMy first awareness of George H.W. Bush dates to the 1970 U.S. midterm elections. He was running for a Senate seat in Texas but – in an era when memories of the Civil War still made statewide office a steep climb for Republicans – he was decisively beaten by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. Bush died on…

Don’t bet the farm on Trump being dumped in 2020

History says midterms don't necessarily point to a change. And who the Democrats nominate to run will have a big say

Don’t bet the farm on Trump being dumped in 2020If you detest Donald Trump, the recent U.S. midterms probably put a spring in your step. Watching the Democrats decisively win the House of Representatives seemed like an omen for two years hence. And perhaps it is. Maybe 2020 will consummate the electoral cycle by evicting Trump from the White House and consigning his presidency…

TV’s Vikings is good fun and semi-reasonable history

But large-scale medieval violence and plundering wasn’t uniquely Viking – not by a long stretch

TV’s Vikings is good fun and semi-reasonable historyVikings returns to TV screens on Nov. 28, courtesy of the History Channel. The Canadian-Irish co-production will embark on the second half of its fifth season and there’ll be more to come after that. If you like historical drama with interesting characters and plenty of action, this is good news. Vikings’ storyline is inspired by…

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of history

The onetime British PM’s apparent affable, avuncular nature masked a lethal ruthlessness

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of historyHarold Macmillan, the onetime British prime minister, popped into mind a few days ago. Watching the problems in extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union reminded me that a humiliating failure to secure entry to that same entity’s predecessor was one of the things that drove Macmillan from office. Macmillan (1894-1986) was prime minister…

‘Countless white crosses’ a century later

The concept of loyalty to king and empire may be incomprehensible to us, but It was part and parcel of who those young soldiers were

‘Countless white crosses’ a century laterRemembrance Day 2018 has a particular resonance. It’s the centenary of the armistice that concluded the First World War, a conflict in which approximately 60,000 Canadians were among the 10 million or so soldiers killed. And as on all such occasions in recent years, songwriter Eric Bogle’s The Green Fields of France says it best…
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