Well, the eclipse was a bit of a non-event in Nova Scotia, but I saw some amazing pictures people took in areas where the total eclipse was visible. And here, from a time before cameras, is a fanciful depiction of an eclipse which is found in the the Nuremberg Chronicle, a book from the Middle Ages which contains an illustrated paraphrase of the Bible and history of the world.
Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493
Also,here is an account of an eclipse from Herodotus' The Histories which he wrote in 440 BC. Herodotus claims in it that the advent of the eclipse put a stop to a battle between two warring factions: the Medes and the Lydians. According to people who study that sort of thing, the eclipse he was describing took place in 585 BC, and Herodotus claims that it was accurately predicted by a Greek philosopher of the time period, Thales of Miletus. He doesn't explain how Thales figured out that there was an eclipse coming, and some modern scholars have questioned whether he actually did. However, Diogenes Laertius, a 3rd century AD biographer of Greek philosophers, makes the same claim, saying that Xenophanes, a philosopher who was a contemporary of Thales, was impressed by the accurate prediction. Diogenes also includes accounts of the incident from two other Greek philosophers, Heraclitus and Democritus. If this is actually true, it would be the first time in history that we know of someone accurately calculating the arrival of an eclipse. Here is Herodotus' writings on the subject:
"Afterwards, on the refusal of Alyattes to give up his suppliants when Cyaxares sent to demand them of him, war broke out between the Lydians and the Medes, and continued for five years, with various success. In the course of it the Medes gained many victories over the Lydians, and the Lydians also gained many victories over the Medes. Among their other battles there was one night engagement. As, however, the balance had not inclined in favour of either nation, another combat took place in the sixth year, in the course of which, just as the battle was growing warm, day was on a sudden changed into night. This event had been foretold by Thales, the Milesian, who forewarned the Ionians of it, fixing for it the very year in which it actually took place. The Medes and Lydians, when they observed the change, ceased fighting, and were alike anxious to have terms of peace agreed on." - Herodotus, The Histories
"Fascism and Bolshevism are not two opposing principles, they are both the negation of the same principles of freedom and order.”
Francesco Saverio Nitti, Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy by former Prime Minister of Italy (1927) pp. 126-127
"In spite of Bolshevism’s and fascism’s different attitudes, above all, private property and nationalism, both fascists and antifascists acknowledged common sources and resulting similarities between Bolshevism and fascism, including their revolutionary ideology, their elitism, their disdain for bourgeois values, and their totalitarian ambitions."
Cyprian P. Blamires, editor, World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (2006) p.p. 95-96.
"Fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory—both are variants of statism, based on the collectivist principle that man is the rightless slave of the state.
-Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, New York: NY, Signet Book from the New American Library (1967) p. 180
"Fascism was the shadow or ugly child of communism . . . As Fascism sprang from Communism, so Nazism developed from Fascism. Thus were set on foot those kindred movements which were destined soon to plunge the world into more hideous strife, which none can say has ended with their destruction."
-Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 1, The Gathering Storm, Mariner Books (1985) pp. 13-14. First published in 1944
In October 1936, the Battle of Cable Street occurred in London. Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was planning a march of his followers- some 2000-3000 people- through the East End of London, which at the time was a predominately Jewish district.
The Communist Party of Great Britain organized a force of about 20,000 to oppose them, comprised mostly of communists, socialists, anarchists, and some Jews and Irishmen. They attacked the BUF marchers, forcing the police to intervene to protect them. The march was called off and the fascists dispersed, but the antifascist rioters then attacked the police for protecting the BUF. Many people, both police officers and rioters, were injured and about 150 demonstrators were arrested following the battle. So the question is, who were the good guys here- the fascists or the antifascists? The answer isn't really all that hard: neither. Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time can be in no doubt of my utter contempt for the tenets of fascism and for those who embrace them. But in a free society citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and march even if they do so with the vilest of motivations. Those who oppose them have the exact same right to organize and protest- so long as that protest does not devolve into violence. When it does, it is the duty of the police- whose job it is to enforce the law- to step in and put a stop to it irrespective of which group or ideology is responsible for it. Anyone who is familiar with my writing can also have no doubt about my complete loathing of communism and socialism in all their forms. Fascism, with Nazi Germany as Exhibit A, is responsible for the deaths of millions and untold misery for millions more. Communism, however, has killed at a rate which the most virulent Nazi could only dream of; we may never know how many hundreds of millions have been murdered, "disappeared", starved to death, or enslaved by practitioners of this evil ideology.
One would have thought that, considering all the heartache and mayhem communism and fascism caused throughout the 20th century, they would be consigned to the ash heap of history by all civilized people. Unfortunately, we are instead seeing a resurgence of both in our time, and it's a worrying prospect. Incidentally, have you noticed that you never see the rise of one without the other? It's almost like they're symbiotic or something (see above quotes). As I watched the grim spectacle of the dregs of society battling each other this past week, I couldn't help thinking of the end of George Orwell's Animal Farm, when the animals could no longer discern any difference between the pigs and the humans. That's how I feel about the fascists and antifascists, so-called: they are two sides of the same dud coin. Case in point- both sides reflexively hate Jews. It doesn't matter if they do it for racial or economic reasons; the result is the same. In actuality, both groups are racist- they just disagree on which races should be vilified and celebrated (excepting Jews, of course). Both are not opposed to using violence to accomplish their aims, and both are just fine with using the power of the state to crush their opponents. None of this will lead anywhere good.
Now that we've established that I consider both of these ideologies to be blights on humanity the question must be, do I consider one to be more dangerous than the other. And the answer is yes: I think that in the long run, Communism is the greater threat to our rights and freedoms. The degree of threat is, in my opinion, related to the difference in reaction by those in positions of power and in media and education to these two evils. When I was a child, I was left in no doubt of the evils of fascism and the Nazis; my strict parents who wouldn't allow us to watch sitcoms would, around Remembrance Day, sit us in front of documentaries on World War II and the Holocaust. I can't remember not knowing of and being horrified by Nazism, the evil ideas that gave rise to it, and what it could lead to. It's still easy to educate children about the wickedness of fascism. The picture on the left is one I took at the Army Museum at the Citadel last Saturday: it's of one of my nephews looking at an exhibit of Nazi artifacts. But to what museum does one take children to show them the evils of communism? Incredibly, though a far more deadly ideology by any quantifiable measure, communism continues to be far more socially acceptable than fascism. A teacher or professor who opined that fascism was an ideal to be striven for and that in Nazi Germany it had just been done poorly, would be removed from his position so fast that your head would spin. Yet communism/ socialism is openly propagated with nary a raised eyebrow from school administrations as educators argue that Stalin, Castro, and their ilk just instituted their ideals badly. Media outlets which swiftly- and rightly- vilify fascistic hate groups have been remarkably coy about reporting on left wing violence and rhetoric. Politicians who have wholeheartedly embraced the tenets of communism- ie. Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders- are taken seriously and embraced by certain political parties. Instead of being called out for what they are, at the worst they are excused as being misguided idealists. And our children are being inundated with this messaging. I think that Winston Churchill, who fought fiercely and unwaveringly against Nazism, was not incorrect when he said that if he was forced to choose between living under fascism or communism, he wouldn't choose communism.
I spent the afternoon at Citadel Hill with some family last Saturday, and it was a good time though rather rainy.
There has been a fort on Citadel Hill in Halifax since 1749, the year Halifax was founded. The hill overlooks Halifax Harbour and is ideal for its defense. Officially, the location is named Fort George, after King George III (the one our American cousins had a little problem with), but it is just referred to as "the Citadel." I doubt a lot of residents could tell you the fort's actual name.
The current star-shaped fortress was completed in 1856, designed to repel an attack by land or sea. It was garrisoned by British soldiers until 1906, and then by Canadian soldiers through the First World War. After Citadel Hill was no longer a working military base, it was restored to its 1869 appearance and opened to the public a national historic site.
The fort houses the Halifax Army Museum, and features reenactments of various duties soldiers would have performed while stationed at the Citadel. Also, every day the noon gun- a cannon on the fort wall- is fired, and can be heard over a great deal of the city.
“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams
One of the perks of having a dad who's a pastor is that the nephews & nieces get to go to camp and do camp things when he's speaking at one, even when they're not technically old enough to attend.
Nephews can't understand why the chickens won't stay and play with them:
They have better luck with the pigs and goats:
Not sure it's a good idea to teach this little guy to aim and shoot a bow & arrow:
Yesterday was my birthday, so I took the day off and spent it doing some things I wanted to do. I slept in, puttered around for a while, and then went to Chapters (bookstore). I wandered through the stacks of various genres and bought one book which I've been planning to pick up for a while. I had been planning to add to my P.G. Wodehouse collection as well, but found to my dismay that Chapters only had one of his books. And not just one book, but only one copy of said book. I could hardly believe it. Then, as I was walking away muttering to myself, I passed by an entire shelf of Margaret Atwood. Dear Chapters: any bookstore with a preponderance of Atwood books and one measly copy of a Wodehouse novel is doing it wrong. Off to Amazon I go.
In the afternoon I headed over to downtown Halifax and went to the Public Gardens, a beautiful 16 acre garden in the middle of the city which has been open since 1867: 150 years ago. It's a lovely spot to go to read, picnic, attend concerts at the bandstand, or just wander around enjoying the beauty of the gardens. Actually, my mother called me while I was there to wish me happy birthday and when I told her where I was, she said she and my Dad had been there the night before for one of the summer night concerts. This is the bandstand where they take place:
And here are a few more pictures I took around the gardens:
Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, and Ceres, goddess of agriculture and fertility:
After this, I headed off down Spring Garden Road to the new library which I've never had opportunity to visit before now. This ain't your grandma's library; it was a little intimidating, actually. It's really impressive of course, but doesn't feel... cozy, like where I'd want to sit and read.
Later I went to the waterfront, because I was meeting one of my sisters for supper and her office is at one of the piers. I was thinking that it seemed really crowded for a weekday afternoon but as it turns out, there are three large cruise ships in port at the moment:
Well, the Natal Day parade took place today, and I got talked into going even though I don't really like parades. It was led off by Sidney Crosby with the Stanley Cup, and it was nice to see that. I'm not a fan of the Penguins, but it's hey- a local boy did good.
The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy, having been donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada, in 1892. It was first awarded in 1893 to Montreal HC. When a team wins the cup, players have the opportunity to take it to their home town for a visit, which is why Sydney Crosby had it in the parade. He also took it to the IWK Children's Hospital and visited the kids there, which was nice.
The annual pilgrimage to the Preserve Company... taste-testing and buying. I picked up some peach salsa, which didn't last beyond Sunday movie night.
The very beautiful Hope Garden:
Next stop: The Toy Factory.
We always eat lunch at least once at The Lost Anchor:
The dining area sort of looks like the inside of a ship, and the anchor which is the namesake of the restaurant hangs on the wall (I was going to take a picture of it, but there was a family sitting right in front of the wall it's on). The anchor is from the Marco Polo, a three-masted clipper which launched from Saint John, New Brunswick in 1851. She was fast; for about a five year period, the Marco Polo was reckoned the fastest ship in the world. For a lot of her career she was used for carrying emigrants to Australia, and was the first ship to make the trip in less than six months. It's said that one out of every twenty Australians can trace their family's arrival in Australia to the Marco Polo. In later years she was used as a cargo ship, and in 1883 ran aground near Charlottetown, PEI during a hurricane. Fortunately, the entire crew survived, but the Marco Polo was lost. The offshore wreck site was relocated in 1960 by a local fisherman, and somehow the owners of the Lost Anchor ended up with the anchor from it, where it now has a place of honour.
The Marco Polo
Cavendish National Park:
Macneill's Pond, one of L.M. Montgomery's inspirations for her "Lake of Shining Waters."
Back in Nova Scotia: pit stop in Oxford, the Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada:
Last week on July 1st Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 101st birthday. She was born on that date in 1916. De Havilland was one of the golden era in Hollywood- from the late 1930's to the early '50's, and was a working actress until the 1980's. Over the course of her career,she won two academy awards- one for the film To Each His Own, and one for the movie The Heiress. She was nominated for a number of other roles including her performance as Melanie in Gone With The Wind. Olivia de Havilland and actress Joan Fontaine, also an Academy Award winner for Suspicion, were sisters. Unfortunately they had a rather adversarial relationship for most of their lives. The trouble between them seems to have had its roots in the way they were treated by their mother, who seems to have been the epitome of a nightmare stage parent. She favoured Olivia, who began acting and achieved success first, over Joan; she even refused to let Joan use their surname- de Havilland- in her career, which is why she went by Fontaine (her mother's maiden name). Resentment and rivalry punctuated the relationship between the sisters, with petty behaviour exhibited by both at various times.
Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn had great chemistry onscreen together, eventually starring in eight films together, including Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and my favourite version of the Robin Hood story, 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood. de Havilland is an excellent Maid Marian, funny and feisty in this movie.
Olivia de Havilland, who became an American citizen right before the USA entered WW II, became very active in the war effort, entertaining troops and visiting military hospitals. At the same time, she was rebelling against the studio system which she saw as keeping her from getting choice roles. She took Warner Brothers to court in 1944 over a section of the California Labor Code which stated that an employer couldn't enforce a contract for more than seven years. She won the landmark case and the subsequent appeal, which resulted in a significant reduction of the studio's power over its actors. She was active in politics; a Democrat, but unlike so many of the acting community today, not afraid to stand up for what was right, as she did when she stood against Dalton Trumbo, who tried to coerce her into giving an anti-American, pro-Russia speech. Trumbo, a shameless Hollywood communist, referred to the U.S. as a "menace" to Russia, as he was a big fan of Stalin. An account of Olivia's push back against him is given here .
In June of this year, de Havilland was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to drama. She continues to be a feisty fighter, currently taking on the TV channel FX, which produced a series entitled Feud: Bette and Joan. It is a fictional telling of the contentious relationship of Bette Davis, Olivia's best friend, and Joan Fontaine, her sister, during their filming of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? In the series, de Havilland is portrayed by Catherine Zeta Jones. The day before her 101st birthday, Olivia filed a lawsuit against FX for portraying her character inaccurately and for using her likeness without permission. It's too soon to know how this will play out, but if history is any guide, it's unwise to bet against Olivia de Havilland.
"One must take what comes, with laughter."- Olivia de Havilland
I've been slacking off a bit, as it's been a busy couple of weeks. Somehow you always think things are going to slow down during the summer months, but then you find yourself trying to juggle work, visiting relatives, and enjoying the warm weather while it's here. After almost a week of rain- including on Canada Day- we've had some lovely weather. Here's a rainbow over my backyard as the storm ended.
With the sun came family; these are some of my nieces at Lawrencetown Beach:
Jack the dog loves to swim, but not at Lawrencetown where the waves are always high, so I took him to the lake.
Meanwhile, sister's dog, tired and hot from chasing around with kids all afternoon, gets some TLC from nephew:
Back to my parents' place for a barbecue and marshmallow roast:
Last night one of my sisters and I went to the Nova Scotia International Tattoo, one of the greatest shows on earth, which I'll discuss in greater detail at a later date.
"Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing." —Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist