The tangled tragedy of Mary, Queen of Scots

Over the past four-plus centuries, Mary’s reputation has waxed and waned. A movie due out this year should put a positive spin on it

The tangled tragedy of Mary, Queen of ScotsThis Christmas, cinema patrons will be offered the historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots. With Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I of England, the movie casts two of today’s prominent actresses in a retelling of the 16th century’s most compelling personal rivalry. As the movie is based on John…

Visiting Liverpool in search of John Lennon’s first muse

Sixty years ago, John Lennon’s mother Julia was killed. He never got over the loss and you can find echos of her influence in Liverpool

Visiting Liverpool in search of John Lennon’s first museThe city of Liverpool has intrigued me ever since I heard my first Beatles record and my youthful idolization of John Lennon always made me want to go there. But what tipped the scale was reading the 2007 book Imagine This by Julia Baird, his younger sister, and seeing the 2009 movie Nowhere Boy, made…

What if Bobby Kennedy had lived?

It’s still a stretch to believe he could have become president in 1972 or later, given his beliefs and the circumstances of the time

What if Bobby Kennedy had lived?Coincident with the 50th anniversary of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s murder, I wrote a column several weeks ago wondering whether he’d have otherwise been elected president in 1968. My sense was negative. In fact, I didn’t think he’d have won the Democratic nomination that year. However, that doesn’t mean that his presidential prospects were…

The man who cheated death again and again

Caryl Chessman won eight stays of execution until the gas chamber finally caught up with him on May, 2, 1960

The man who cheated death again and againHe’s a forgotten figure now but there was a time when anyone following the news cycle would have known who Caryl Chessman was. Sentenced to death in California on June 25, 1948, Chessman won eight stays of execution until the gas chamber finally caught up with him on May, 2, 1960. In the process, he…

The Black Death and its aftermath

Surprisingly, post-Black Death populations tended to live longer and enjoy better health and standards of living

The Black Death and its aftermathBubonic plague came to England in the summer of 1348. Popularly known as the Black Death, the disease arrived via a French ship that docked in what is now Weymouth on the south coast. From there, it spread rapidly inland and westwards over the water to Ireland. It was also transmitted across the North Sea…

The perverted logic that leads Donald Trump to believe he’s king

Trump's delusion is not trivial. His assault on the U.S. constitution and its founding principles could unravel centuries of progress

The perverted logic that leads Donald Trump to believe he’s kingAccording to the Washington Post, Donald Trump's lawyers argue that the American president should not be investigated (and cannot be prosecuted) for obstruction of justice because he holds complete control over federal investigations. As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, the lawyers argue, Trump could “even exercise his power to pardon if so desired,” including,…

Did Canada expel Russian diplomats for a false reason?

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland plays fast and loose with the facts if she believes her grandfather wasn't a Nazi collaborator

Did Canada expel Russian diplomats for a false reason?We live in a world where “fake news” is used with near-reckless abandon. But there are moments when real news gets lumped into this category. It blurs fact and fiction, and changes a narrative not for the better but for the worse. Here’s a recent example. Canada recently tossed out four Russian diplomats and refused…

Britain’s social (and economic) revolution

A stunning 94% of Britain’s richest made their money themselves. Land ownership no longer holds the keys to the kingdom

Britain’s social (and economic) revolutionIf you watched the royal wedding, you’d be tempted to think of Britain’s social order as immutable. While the bride’s background introduced a degree of diversity, the image of Britain as hereditarily hierarchical seemed to be alive and well. Reality, though, is different. The tectonic plates have shifted significantly over the past half-century, transforming what…

Can only Indigenous scholars teach Indigenous history?

Schools must be allowed to hire scholars on the basis of academic merit, regardless of race, gender or class

Can only Indigenous scholars teach Indigenous history?A liberal education should deal in ideas that are true and universal. And such an education should, by definition, prepare students to recognize falsehoods and ideas that divide, like the notion that only people of certain races can accomplish certain feats. This defining feature of the liberal arts came to the fore again last week,…

Movie musical Grease turns 40 this summer

Forty years after its release, the movie poses a conundrum for those disposed to view everything through an ideologically-tinted lens

Movie musical Grease turns 40 this summerBelieve it or not, the movie musical Grease turns 40 this summer. It’s no exaggeration to say that it took the 1978 box office by storm. Indeed, the radio-ubiquitous title song caught the mood of the moment perfectly: Grease is the word. Alas, the simple joys can never stay simple. In the fraught temper of…
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