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…

The unwelcome consequences of the collapse of empires

The demise of the German Hohenzollerns led to Hitler, while the collapse of the Austrian Habsburgs gave rise to malignant nationalism

The unwelcome consequences of the collapse of empires​November marks the political demise of two imperial dynasties, the German Hohenzollerns and the Austrian Habsburgs. Like the Russian Romanovs and the Turkish Ottomans, they were casualties of the First World War. The Romanovs were the first to go, upended by the war-induced 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Of course, the case can be made that what…

Legend, reality and the Outlaw King

The full story of Robert the Bruce's ascendancy to the Scottish crown is more intricate and certainly less romantic

Legend, reality and the Outlaw KingReading about the forthcoming Outlaw King movie reminded me of a childhood story. The subject of both the movie and the story is Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), the famous Scottish king who routed the English at Bannockburn and paved the way for Scotland’s independence. The childhood story had a moral about the value of persistence…

Stephen Harper returns, and he has plenty to say

The former Conservative prime minister has advice for us on Trump, economics, immigration and more

Stephen Harper returns, and he has plenty to sayStephen Harper is back. After flying under the radar for the last three years, Canada’s former prime minister has returned to the arena, albeit not as an active politician. Instead, he’s a commentator with several messages to impart, all of which are packaged in his new book Right Here Right Now. Not everyone is impressed.…

The man who shot Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett has been maligned for killing his "friend" in a "cowardly" way. Neither indictment is persuasive

The man who shot Billy the KidTo the extent he’s remembered at all, Pat Garrett (1850-1908) is known as the man who shot Billy the Kid. Reputation-wise, it’s been a mixed blessing. Although the shooting happened in Garrett’s capacity as a sheriff hunting down a convicted murderer, the fictionalizing of the Old West and the power of Hollywood storytelling often cast…
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