Essays in Idleness


Month: August, 2013

Shifty eyes

Two of my (many) heroes became famous while suppressing the Taiping Rebellion, in China in the mid-19th century. One was the British reactionary, & devout Evangelical, Charles George “Chinese” Gordon (later “Gordon Pasha,” & “Gordon of Khartoum”), who took command of the foreign-officered Ch’ang Sheng Chün (“Ever Victorious Army”). It was a remarkably small, independent, mercenary […]

In the picture

Perhaps I know less about photography than I know about music. It is hard to say, for my ignorance of music is formidable. I am thinking here of the sort of knowledge that can come only from practice & participation; not “academic” knowledge, which is quantitative, & cheap. The theatre critic, who has never tried […]

The middle way

You know the type: expensive food & women; silk kimonos every day. Private carrying chairs for their wives. Music & card lessons for their marriageable daughters; drum lessons for their sons. Football, miniature archery, poetry contests. Constantly renovating their houses; downright addiction to the tea ceremony. Cherry-blossom viewing, boat trips, daily baths. Nights on the […]


From a recent item in the Catholic Herald, we see that Chuck Darwin’s great-great-great granddaughter has lost her faith in scientific materialism. The item has been travelling through Catholic media & blogosphere since June. By now it has appeared even in the National Catholic Register, which frees me to mention it here. For I take […]

Chronicles of “peace, peace”

The horrifying violence in Egypt — well, I have been reading about it from this very safe distance, from where we see what we have been shown. In this case, we have been shown a lot of tear gas & rat-tat-tat from two locations in Cairo, with cuts to statesmen deploring it all, & calling […]

Victorian literature

The coarse word condemns the sin; the refined word excuses it. This is the secret relationship between Victorian Bowdlerism, & the postmodern politically correct. My thanks as so often recently to Mr G.K. Chesterton for pointing this out, while I was waking this morning. Our conversation, which has grown much rounder since I joined Holy […]

Back to the future

Let us take a brief moment to laugh, sarcastically, at the idea that freedom consists of obedience to the laws of supply & demand. John Lukacs quotes Wendell Berry: “Rodents & rats live with the laws of supply & demand. Human beings live with the laws of justice & mercy.” Berry I may never mention […]

A penny’s worth

Among my favourite places to lunch in the Greater Parkdale Area, is in the vicinity of the Robarts Library, downtown. There are food trucks parked along Saint George Street. Several offer quite extensive Chinese menus, & one a Slavic interpretation of American junk food, distinctly superior to the original. By my estimation, the town’s top […]