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

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Liars deserve to be called liars

Author: Jim Taylor

National Public Radio in the U.S. has made a decision. It will not use the word “lie” to describe President Donald Trump’s less-than-truthful assertions. Or, as NPR puts it, “how to characterize the statements of President Trump when they are at odds with evidence to the contrary.”

            NPR cites, as an example, Trump’s claim that when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, "I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people [referring to ‘Muslims’] were cheering as that building was coming down."

            The statement was clearly false, and NPR said so. But they didn’t call him a liar.

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Trump, lies, NPR




Dreaming of something beyond ourselves

Author: Jim Taylor

 Dogs dream. 

            That should be an obvious statement. All dog owners have seen their pet’s legs twitching while asleep. Clearly, the dog is chasing something. A rabbit perhaps. Or romping for sheer joy through an imaginary meadow. 

            We cannot know exactly what the dream consists of, because dogs can’t talk to us. But the fact that dogs can dream should tell us that dogs are capable of imagining themselves in situations that transcend the immediate present. 

            That is, they are not simply creatures that react to external stimuli.

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Cougars treated like aboriginals

Author: Jim Taylor

Four cougars were killed in the city of Penticton this last week.

            That’s the bald fact. The reactions to it probably skid in two different directions.

            One reaction approves of killing them. Cougars, it would assert, are wild animals. Very powerful, and potentially dangerous. For human safety – or perhaps more accurately, for the safety of straying pets – cougars must be eliminated from urban areas.

            A second reaction is sorrow. Even anger. The cougars had harmed no one. Indeed, it could be argued that they had performed a service to Penticton residents, by culling a few of the wild deer that infest the city.

            And besides, they looked cuddly.

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Un-learning things we were taught

Author: Jim Taylor

You probably had drilled into you, at school, a number of rules about writing:

·       Never split an infinitive.

·       Never start a paragraph with “I”.

·       Never end a sentence with a preposition.

·       Never start a sentence with “And” or “But”.

And you’ve spent most of your adult life trying to conform to those Never-Never rules, even when doing so required a mental hernia. 

            Those rules never were rules. Every one of the great English writers, the ones who set a model for us, broke those rules.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: grammar, English, rules




The mistake of sending young people to war

Author: Jim Taylor

 Unlike most recent mass shootings, Santiago did not die in a hail of police bullets, leaving authorities to guess about his motivations. And often, I suspect, to create conspiracies where none existed. We’re told he has been cooperating with police. 

            Even so, most news reports have included a line such as, “Terrorism has not been ruled out.” Or perhaps, “Authorities are still investigating possible terrorist links.”

            Why, why, oh why must Americans find someone else to blame?

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The hidden wisdom of folk saying

Author: Jim Taylor

My mother had a maxim for every occasion. If I paced impatiently waiting for something to happen, she’d tell me, “A watched pot never boils.” If she had reservations about my friends, I’d get “Birds of a feather flock together.” If I got a Christmas present I didn’t particularly want, I might hear, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Or perhaps, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

            It took me some time to realize that many of those maxims come in contradictory pairs. 

            “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” encourages me to squeak up. But “Speech is silver, silence is golden” advises me not to. 

            One maxim advocates caution: “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” Another expects me to take risks: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”


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Denying the epidemic of dementia

Author: Jim Taylor

           It’s hard to call dementia an epidemic. Epidemics typically involve infectious diseases. But when one in every 11 Canadians over the age of 65 has some form of dementia, some 700,000 Canadians, it’s hard to call dementia anything but an epidemic. Every year, about 25,000 new cases are diagnosed. 

            Apply those figures to any other illness – measles, cancer, AIDS – and you’d have not just an epidemic, but panic. 

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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Dementia, Ebola, denial




How do ideas spread?

Author: Jim Taylor

          You remember those jokes, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The jokes assumed that a chicken actually had a reason for crossing a road. California quail don’t. When a car comes, they scuttle across, then decide they preferred other side, and reverse direction just as the car reaches them.

            In the muted light of dawn or dusk, they sometimes move in such numbers that it feels as if the earth itself is moving.

             They land on my bird feeder the same way they travel on the ground -- en masse. They shoulder each other off the platform. They climb over each other. They can empty the feeder in a day. Last winter, I put out an estimated 300 pounds of sunflower seeds. Quail got most of it.

            This year, I decided to outsmart them. I made a wire cage to cover the feeder. Its mesh had holes big enough for chickadees and finches, but too small -- I thought -- for bulkier quail.

            I was wrong.

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The gulf between micro and macro

Author: Jim Taylor

Like most of us, I find myself thinking back over the last year. 

            Certainly, if you lived in Syria, Yemen, Gaza, or either of the Sudans, it would not have been a good year. And perhaps not in the U.K. and the U.S.A, depending on your political alignment. In the news, too, famous people toppled like ten-pins.

            But that’s the macro level. At the micro level, most people I know have had a pretty good year. Stock markets have soared to record levels. Employment has risen, if fractionally. Mortgage rates have stayed low. Even without autopilot features, cars have been getting better and better – economy models now have safety features you couldn’t get on luxury cars 20 years ago.

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