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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13

Oct

2019

Old political labels don’t stick anymore

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday. It’s also just nine days away from a federal election. One of the things I’m thankful for is that Canada is not mired in the political lunacy in the U.S.

            So far, about the only thing the various Canadian parties and candidates have been able to agree about is that the other side has more flaws than they do.

            I suspect that if our ballots had a “None of the above” box, we’d elect a non-government with a huge majority, made up of members who didn’t get elected.

            In today’s elections, traditional labels don’t work. A conservative is not necessarily a Conservative, let alone a Progressive Conservative. And a Liberal is not necessarily liberal, especially out here in B.C.


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9

Oct

2019

One rule for open discussion

Author: Jim Taylor

I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. Although my aging body no longer allows some physical activities I once enjoyed, I haven’t lost my love of a lively discussion. Yet.

            Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion -- from saying too much to saying too little.

            Still, in my experience, the most pernicious fault is dragging in an external authority. Perhaps a quotation from a famous writer. A statement from a scientist, ripped out of context. A dictionary definition.

            Or selected verses from the Bible.

            Especially, perhaps, from the Bible. Because the Bible can be used to support almost any stance, from slavery to prostitution, from genocide to a flat earth. The same is probably true for the Qur’an, the Hindu Upanishads, and the Analects of Confucius. They were never written as reasoned arguments for a unified worldview.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: rules, discussion

6

Oct

2019

No Sharp Edges column today

Author: Jim Taylor

No, I don’t need a holiday. No, I don’t particularly deserve a day off. But on Thursday, the managing editor of the newspaper that gets the first lick at my Sharp Edges columns sent an email: “Take this weekend off. I need your space for election coverage.”

            I had a column partly complete. Mostly complete. But I wasn’t happy with it. It was about the federal election, of course. More specifically, about the candidates in my local riding. About which, I daresay, no one outside this riding cares a whit. 

            (A “whit” -- in case you’re wondering, is a literary or archaic term meaning “the least possible amount.”)

            So I accepted my weekend off. 

            All I can give you, this weekend, is your own letters about last week’s column, in which I excoriated (there’s another word worth looking up) a leadership conference here in Kelowna that involved two former prime ministers. 


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2

Oct

2019

Regretting things I didn’t do

Author: Jim Taylor

On the last day of summer, before all the kids went back to school, I walked along our beach, watching families having a final day of fun.

            A young girl offered a salted potato chip to a duck swimming near the shore.

            Nervously, the duck paddled towards her. It snatched the chip. Then it retreated to deeper waters.

            A second girl came down to the water. She kicked water out over the duck. Again and again.

            It was -- pardon the cliché -- like water off a duck’s back.

            And I did nothing.

            What should I have said? What could I have done?

            And how would the girls’ parents react, if a total stranger had lectured their daughters on right and wrong? The parents themselves apparently saw no reason to intervene.

            Because both girls were doing something I objected to.


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