Essays in Idleness


Month: July, 2013

Light-tight & might

It will take about seven years, according to mass media sources, for the United States to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil exporter. We are told that large harbour projects designed for the importation of gas are being redesigned for export. That voluble & entertaining billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, irritated by the […]


“Dearth of civil courage” is a phrase from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor & theologian, anti-Nazi dissident & conspirator (martyred 9 April 1945). He used it to explain the failure of German resistance to Hitler, before, during, & after his rise. Hitler was a special case, but “dearth of civil courage” is not an […]


We see, on perusing the news this morning, that the BBC have lifted their deathwatch on Nelson Mandela for the moment, & shifted to birthwatch on a lady they identify in their headline as “Kate Middleton.” I think they are referring to the Duchess of Cambridge, & that the child will be, according to received […]

The dead motor

We had, up here in the High Doganate, succeeded until this moment in resisting the temptation to mention Detroit, a city which does not seem able even to declare itself bankrupt successfully, now forty-six years after it should have begun processing the papers. For the entire city resolved to surrender to rioters in 1967; to […]

Come the revolution

It is a little known, & therefore underappreciated fact, that I am not trying to overthrow the Government. Nor, though I am vexed by democracy, would I blow up the Parliament — not even if provided with the munitions gratis, & a crowd of cheering supporters. I am anyway, like the American Loyalists from whom […]

Alex Colville

The notion that painting should supply imagery remains fairly well implanted in the public mind, at least since the aurochs & equines of Lascaux. “Representative” is a related but different idea. The Abstract Expressionism against which Alex Colville rebelled, when he returned from the European front as perhaps Canada’s most memorable war artist, cannot be […]

Truth & numbers

According to the BBC, I was the 75,962,709,323rd human to be born on Earth. Our numbers have now grown to 83,445,892,578, or had when I checked their world population widget the other day, & entered my birthdate in the calculator provided. That would be something like 10 percent growth, in just the last sixty years; […]

The 5th of July

It would have been rude, perhaps even obtuse & insensitive, to deliver myself of another Loyalist rant on the 4th of July. And besides, after 237 years, it would be arcane to argue the Declaration of Independence point by point. The document landed in London without much of a thud; it was more noticed by […]

Arab autumn?

At last, good news from the Middle East. Democracy has been overthrown in Egypt. The generals taking over promise new elections in a few months, but with any luck they are lying. Nothing lasts in this world, & I mustn’t get carried away. In Cairo, the show is far from over. It would be too […]

The happy soldier

Celebration of the secular nation state, with fireworks &c, helps one remember what it is good for — fighting wars, mostly. And so on the eve of Dominion Day, wandering idly through a flea market, I was pleased to find, in mint condition, the first edition of a fine book on war; for one dollar. […]

Statutory holiday

Today is Dominion Day. It was officially renamed “Canada Day” in some bigoted Act of Parliament around 1982, which should have been ignored. American readers can imagine what they would think of a Congress that had “Independence Day” officially redesignated “United States Day.” They would assume their country were under alien occupation, just as I […]