The Marshall Plan wasn’t a silver bullet

Called ‘the most generous act of any people, anytime, anywhere, to another people,‘ the post-war economic boost still had flaws

The Marshall Plan wasn’t a silver bulletU.S. President Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan into law 70 years ago this month. Named after then-U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, the plan was aimed at the economic reconstruction of Europe in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. It got rave reviews. Its own chief administrator characterized it as “the most…

Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s art

Part 4 of the understanding cognac series: the deft hand of the master blender is critical to production

Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s artAt first glance, cognac production seems straightforward. The local wine is distilled twice, aged in oak casks from a few years to decades and eventually bottled. In reality, it’s an exceedingly complex minuet where the subtle influences of terroir merge with the distiller’s art and ultimately flower under the deft hand of the master blender.…

‘Three sheets to the wind, damn nearly decks awash!’

How an old sailor’s vernacular links us to the past, gives us perspective on a disruptive future … and makes us smile

‘Three sheets to the wind, damn nearly decks awash!’In the early 1900s, steam was rapidly replacing sail, and the square-rigged ‘tea clippers’ that dominated the merchant marine were fast becoming anachronisms. Like so many workers today, sailors suddenly faced an economy characterized by disruption. My great uncle Leighton was one of them. He was captain of the clipper ship Melanope, which was withdrawn…

With Cognac, it’s all about terroir

Cognac part 3: The environment, including the chalky soil, is everything when it comes to producing the right grapes

With Cognac, it’s all about terroirCognac begins as wine. Like any wine, it’s shaped in part by the environment in which it grows. Soil, aspect and climate, among other things, combine to create a unique environment, what the French call terroir. A wine, in turn, is a distinct expression of that terroir. In the Cognac region, terroir is, for the…

Vasili Arkhipov kept his head and saved us from nuclear destruction

We owe so much to Vasili Arkhipov, yet he’s not well known. He kept his cool while those around him were losing it during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Vasili Arkhipov kept his head and saved us from nuclear destructionWhere would we be without Vasili Arkhipov? Would we be here at all? Who is Vasili Arkhipov? Before I get to that, let’s talk about the dangerous world we live in. North Korea is bristling with nuclear bombs. The rogue nation is completely unpredictable. South Korea, Japan – and, apparently, North America – are all…

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thrive

The traditional cognac houses have had to overcome grape plagues, the rising popularity of Scotch whisky, counterfeiting and war

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thriveAugier, the first modern cognac house, was organized in 1643. Today the brand is owned by French spirits giant Pernod Ricard. It recently relaunched the brand with a line of cognacs said to reflect the early style of the product. Over the two centuries following 1643, many of the leading cognac houses, including the big…

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spirit

Part 1 of a seven-part series on the history, production and business of cognac

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spiritCognac is a type of brandy produced in the Charente region of France, centred around the towns of Cognac and Jarnac, and stretching from the Île de Ré to the Gironde Estuary on the Atlantic coast, to Angoulême and the foothills of the Mastiff Central. The Cognac Delimited Region, the exclusive area where cognac can…

The Cambridge Analytica furor is mostly bunk

The truth is that gathering and deploying information to influence people’s voting behaviour has long been a staple of politics

The Cambridge Analytica furor is mostly bunkIf you were an innocent in the world of politics, you might have been shocked by the Cambridge Analytica revelations. There are accusations of “harvesting the private information of millions of Facebook users” and then deploying it to “wage psychological warfare against American democracy.” But let’s be candid: At its core, the handwringing horror is…

Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders a masterpiece

In Lands of Lost Borders, Kate Harris ruminates on 10 months aboard a bicycle along the Silk Road once conquered by Marco Polo

Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders a masterpieceLands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road By Kate Harris Knopf Canada, 2018 Kate Harris is a Canadian Rhodes Scholar who studied the history of science at Oxford, dropped out of her microbiology PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and instead has found her métier as a modern-day explorer. Channeling…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…
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