Myths and Constellations

In the second century AD a learned scientist from  Alexandria called Claudius Ptolemy attempted a synthesis of what was known then about astronomy. Some of this knowledge was based on observation, some inherited from Babylonian astronomers. Ptolemy grouped the observable stars into constellations and gave them names from mythology. Ptolemy’s astronomy was prevalent until replaced … More Myths and Constellations

Jesus of Montreal

While watching Denys Arcand’s absorbing 1989 film Jesus of Montreal again, I wondered (again) how true Arcand’s contention was, that the crucifixion had to happen, that Jesus would always be rejected, in any time and place he showed himself. That somewhere in the world he is being rejected right now. The plot If you’ve seen … More Jesus of Montreal

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise is a film made in 1932 about romance. Writer Samson Raphaelson and director Ernst Lubitsch (though they shared both roles) created what director/critic Peter Bogdanovich thought the best romantic comedy film ever made. It is also unlike any other romantic comedy film ever made, and a film that repays rewatching. In the … More Trouble in Paradise

The cell and the spirit

A dialog between Russell Brand, comedian turned guru, and Brian Cox, a physicist unparalleled at deciphering the sciences for non scientists, was bound to be lively, incoherent (Brand, with a nervous delivery reminiscent of Robin Williams), informative within set limits (Cox, very practised at this condensed narration), and stimulating. See it at (published January … More The cell and the spirit


Most people I’ve met, including myself, possess two fundamental virtues. The first is self preservation; the second is kindness. Self preservation is surely not a virtue but an instinct? Yet consider what it leads to: idealism and altruism, to make life better for ourselves and to enhance our self image; drive and ambition, to get … More Virtues

Funny words

The English language is a fascinating grab-bag of ancient slang, words borrowed from other languages, folk sayings; all kinds of records in fact from its chequered past. Recently I came across an aspect of this diversity: reduplicated words. Sounds like a tautology I know (’tautology’ in turn sounds like the study of tortoises but of … More Funny words