Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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30

Oct

2019

Halloween, beyond the masks

Author: Jim Taylor

Halloween has a very short shelf life. Apparently, it ranks right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving for retail sales. But as someone’s blog noted, there’s not much market for Darth Vader costumes the day after Halloween. Nor for packages of 100 bite-sized chocolate bars. 

            With Halloween coming up tomorrow night, I can’t help wondering about our fascination with this pseudo-religious festival. 

            Yes, pseudo-religious. Because Halloween -- or Hallowe’en, a shortened form for All Hallows’ Even(ing), the night before All Hallows’ Day – certainly had its origins in religion. “Hallow” refers to the holy, the sacred, as in “Hallowed be Thy name.” The hallowed ones in this case are the dead, especially those we think of as saints. 

            Formally, we recognize them on All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween. 

            Hallows’ Eve, therefore, became the night when the dead, both saintly and un-, returned to roam the dark.

            But I doubt if any of the costumed kids going door to door with their loot bags will be thinking saintly thoughts. Indeed, I doubt if one in a hundred parents will bother explaining the religious roots of their annual ritual. 


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27

Oct

2019

Impeachment and schadenfreude

Author: Jim Taylor

Today’s word, for those of you who view life as an episode of Sesame Street, is “schadenfreude.” Pronounced “shah-den-froy-duh.” It means “taking delight in Donald Trump’s impeachment.”

            Oops, there’s another  big word. “Impeachment” -- pronounced im-peach-ment -- means “humiliating the president.”

            And that’s about all it means.

             Canadians don’t have impeachment. We have no procedures for impeaching prime ministers, regardless of their lack of popularity. Instead, parliament can pass a vote of “no confidence,” which means, basically, that the members of parliament want another election, whether or not Canadians as a whole have lost confidence in the ability of the government to govern.

             The big difference is that when a Canadian parliament votes “no confidence,” the government falls.

            When the American House of Representatives votes for impeachment, it does little more than splat the president with a banana-cream pie.

 

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24

Oct

2019

As autumn leaves begin to fall

Author: Jim Taylor

There’s a sadness to autumn as the leaves begin to fall. I used to look forward to what we called “Indian summer,” that precious period of bright sunny days and cool crisp nights, a brief oasis of pleasure before the world skids into winter.

            But I have reached an age where falling leaves make me think of mentors who have also fallen to the cycle of  seasons. 

            I was fortunate. Or blessed. Or something. I had some exceptional mentors over the years. 

            But alas, many have gone. By this time next year, a few more will have gone. I feel increasingly bereft.


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20

Oct

2019

Evidence grows against e-cigarettes

Author: Jim Taylor

I’m not sure exactly when I first encountered vaping. I was leading an editing workshop. I explained the house rules, which included “No Smoking.” One participant pulled out an e-cigarette. “Is this okay?” he asked.

            He said he was trying to quit smoking.

            After some discussion, the group let him vape. We were wrong.

            It took 500 years for western civilization to recognize the risks of tobacco smoking. The hazards of vaping have  become all too evident in one decade.

            I can accept that the Spanish explorers who brought tobacco from America to Europe had no idea of its harmful effects. They had no ill intentions. Smoking was simply a novelty.

            I cannot accept that their successors, the tobacco companies who aggressively marketed cigarettes through the 20thcentury, did not know that their product caused harm. The medical evidence was overwhelming. Smoking made almost every ailment worse, from cancer to heart disease.


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16

Oct

2019

The eunuch and the hitchhiker

Author: Jim Taylor

Who is the most despicable person you can think of? The kind of person you would least like to spend any time with? The kind of person who makes your skin crawl?

            Back in biblical times, you’d probably be thinking of a eunuch.

            Eunuchs had three strikes against them.

            A eunuch was almost always a slave.

            And probably a foreigner captured in battle, a former enemy

            And strike three, a eunuch wasn’t a man anymore. He had been castrated. Although castration of an adult male wouldn’t necessarily prevent him getting an erection, he couldn’t perform that most essential function of manhood – fathering children to continue his family line.


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