Ireland’s greatest mythical hero

The story of Cuchulainn is one of heroism. But it has also become a cultural touchstone and a political rallying cry

Ireland’s greatest mythical heroWith St. Patrick’s Day almost upon us, it’s appropriate to write something with an Irish theme. And what better subject than the greatest hero of Ireland’s mythical past – Cuchulainn. As the word is derived from old Irish, a bit of phonetic assistance would help. The variation familiar from my childhood is “Coo Cullen.” It…

We need to confront the history of slavery in Canada

It’s very easy for Canadians to look self-righteously at Americans and claim the higher moral ground. But it's not necessarily true

We need to confront the history of slavery in CanadaNewly-elected U.S. congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said, “Until America tells the truth about itself, we’re not going to heal.” There’s reason to hope that America will heal. For instance, it’s very encouraging to see several Democratic presidential hopefuls include recognition of the impact of the slave trade and subsequent racist policies against the African-American…

Queen Victoria’s foreign policy man was larger than life

Were Lord Palmerston alive today, he’d most certainly be a Brexiteer

Queen Victoria’s foreign policy man was larger than lifeFor devotees of the TV series Victoria, the introduction of foreign secretary Lord Palmerston was a season three highlight. And given Palmerston’s dominant role in British foreign policy between 1830 and 1865, his introduction was historically apt as well as dramatically interesting. Purists, though, might take issue with the casting. Although Laurence Fox’s performance is…

The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duo

Comedy masters Laurel and Hardy are the subject of a new biopic that tells a story of triumph and despair

The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duoLaurel and Hardy’s Hollywood heyday was before my time. I started going to the movies in the early 1950s, by which point their cinematic status had been eclipsed by other comedy duos like Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis. Still, the new biopic Stan & Ollie strikes nostalgically resonant notes. One of the more…

The unrelenting (and ill-informed) push to rewrite history

No other global civilization has been as deliberate and inclusive about progress as modern western civilization

The unrelenting (and ill-informed) push to rewrite historyProgressive liberals of a certain frame of mind suggest that white people are guilty. They’re the systemic oppressors of indigenous cultures, minorities and people of colour. Modern western society also stands accused of abusing the environment and of being unrelentingly sexist, racist and elitist. Or is western civilization the crucible of progress, the liberator of…

The rise and fall of a Native American empire

The Comanches were very adaptable and formidable. But nature, politics, economics and immigration eventually undid them

The rise and fall of a Native American empireIt’s easy to think of the European arrival in North America as an unremitting story of Native American retreat. But as Finnish historian Pekka Hamalainen explains in The Comanche Empire, reality was more complicated. Empowered by the European introduction of the horse and the gun, the Comanches did very well for a long time. In…

You have not nearly seen everything yet

A 96-year-old mother’s invaluable experiences and insights help put today’s calamitous events in perspective

You have not nearly seen everything yetIt’s tempting to think when you hit your 60s that you’ve seen it all, that your analysis of contemporary issues is tight and complete. I’m here to say it ain’t. That’s because I’ve just checked in with my 96-year-old Mom, Frances Robinson, after being in Mexico for a couple of weeks, forgetfully without a phone…

Baseball must embrace its uniqueness and stay retro

Every time MLB moves away from its history, tradition and nostalgia, the game doesn’t improve a little, it dies a little

Baseball must embrace its uniqueness and stay retroBaseball is a significantly different sport than football, basketball and hockey. It’s that uniqueness, and the tradition that comes from the fact that baseball has changed very little over the years, that accounts for a lot of its popularity. “There’s no crying in baseball!” said Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) in the movie A…

The Avro Arrow’s demise was a high-tech tragedy

The made-in-Canada jet interceptor certainly had its problems. But the manner in which it was killed raised serious questions

The Avro Arrow’s demise was a high-tech tragedyOn Feb. 20, 1959, the Canadian government cancelled the Avro Arrow. Some people still refer to the day as Black Friday. Growing up in Ireland, my teenage awareness of Canada was limited. Other than occasional news snippets in my father’s weekly edition of Time magazine, Canada meant snow, the RCMP, Paul Anka and Yvon Durelle,…

The day the music died?

Buddy Holly died 60 years ago, but his music has not faded away – even if the nature of rock tours has changed dramatically

The day the music died?To quote Don McLean’s song American Pie, Feb. 3 marks the 60th anniversary of the day the music died. The reference, of course, is to the 1959 plane crash that killed rock ’n’ roller Buddy Holly, two other performers and the pilot of the four-seater plane in which they were travelling. I remember the event…
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