One hundred years ago this fall philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus was born in French Algeria.
Although best known today for his work The Stranger, Camus wrote several important books, was involved in the French Resistance during World War II and was an active human rights proponent.
The second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, after Rudyard Kipling, Camus died in car crash in January 1960 at age 46, less than three years after winning the award.
One of Camus’ masterpieces is The Plague, a 1947 novel set in the Algerian city of Oran.
In Camus’ work, an outbreak of bubonic plague sweeps the coastal community, which is sealed off as a health measure, trapping hundreds of thousands for months as the death toll steadily mounts.
The Plague ponders the vagaries of fate and the conflict between man’s innate tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, even when none may exist.
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I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this was not put together by the typical Facebook user.
The Los Angeles Times’ take on the recent report that William Shakespeare didn’t like to pay taxes and sought to profit from an archaic form of commodities trading says as much about the Times’ view of the world as it does about life in Elizabethan-era England.
The Times picked up on a report from researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales that claims the Bard of Avon was a grain hoarder and was pursued by authorities for tax evasion.
Profits from his actions were channeled into real estate deals, enabling Shakespeare to become a large landowner.
The Times calls Shakespeare a conniving character, a tax dodger and a profiteer. What it fails to do is add some economic context to its story.
While focusing on claims that Shakespeare “a tax dodger who profiteered during times of famine,” the Times makes just a brief mention of the fact that there was no copyright laws in Shakespeare’s time, meaning he could expect no future royalties from his works.
Instead, the publication manages to whip up a little class envy while portraying the playwright as little more than a thug:
“By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon,” according to the Times. “His profits – minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion – meant he had a working life of just 24 years.”
During the 24 seasons The Simpsons has been on the air, one of its many highlights has been the program’s ability to spoof the video game industry.
Invariably, video and arcade games are shown in a satirical vein, with an abundance of violence, blood or simple inane themes (witness the My Dinner with Andre game).
I’m partial to Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster, which, not surprising to fans of the show, belongs to Rod and Todd Flanders, progeny of ultra-religious Simpson neighbor Ned Flanders.
As Bart plays for Bible Blasters for the first time, Rod can be heard proffering the following advice: “Keep firing, convert the heathens!”
Manx, a language declared extinct in the 1990s, is staging an extraordinary renaissance.
Nearly 40 years after last native speaker of Manx died and half a generation after UNESCO declared it extinct, the Gaelic language is anything but dead.
“Road signs, radio shows, mobile phone apps, novels – take a drive around the Isle of Man today and the local language is prominent,” according to the BBC News Magazine.
Manx is a sister language of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and like those two languages is descended from an old version of Irish. In the Manx tongue, the language is called “Gaelg” or “Gailck,” similar to the English word “Gaelic.”
Like many of the languages which once flourished within the British Isles, including Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish, Manx was supplanted by English and later looked down upon by many, particularly those in power.
“In the 1860s there were thousands of Manx people who couldn’t speak English,” said Brian Stowell, 76, a native of the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. “But barely a century later it was considered to be so backwards to speak the language that there were stories of Manx speakers getting stones thrown at them in the towns.”
Some 33 years after disappearing in Afghanistan, a Soviet veteran of the Afghan War has been located by his former countrymen.
The soldier, found by ex-Soviet troops, now lives with Afghans in the western province of Herat and has adopted the Afghan name Sheikh Abdullah, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.
An ethnic Uzbek, he was wounded in battle in 1980, shortly after the beginning of the nine-year Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Rescued by local Afghans after being wounded, the soldier, whose original name was Bakhretdin Khakimov, is now semi-nomadic and practices herbal medicine, the Russian news agency added.
The head of the official veterans’ committee, Ruslan Aushev, said the long-missing soldier was tracked down in Afghanistan’s Shindand district after a year-long search. He had served with a motorized rifle unit, according to the BBC.
At present, more than 250 Soviet soldiers are listed as still missing in Afghanistan. In the first decade after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 the veterans’ committee found 29 missing soldiers – and 22 of them decided to return home, while seven opted to stay in Afghanistan, RIA reported.
Abdullah bore the scars of his war wounds – a shaking hand and shoulder and nervous tic, according to a veterans’ committee official.
Some 15,000 Red Army soldiers and more than a million Afghans were killed during the conflict, which began in late 1979 and ended in early 1989 and pitted a Soviet-backed government in Kabul against mujahideen fighters armed by the West and Islamic neighbors.
(Above: Soviet solider in Afghanistan. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.)
In a city noted for extraordinary churches, the French Huguenot Church stands out among Charleston’s houses of worship.
Completed in 1845, the Huguenot Church was the first Gothic Revival building constructed in the South Carolina port city. Nearly 170 years later, it is the only independent Huguenot church in the United States.
Also known as the French Protestant Church, it is a stuccoed-brick structure with three bays in the front and back and six bays along the sides. Each bay is divided by narrow buttresses topped by elaborate pinnacles, and the three front windows are topped with cast-iron crockets with a battlement parapet surrounding the top of the church.
The interior consists of walls with plaster ribbed-grained vaulting, with marble tablets etched with names of Huguenot families such as Ravenel, Porcher, de Saussure, Huger and Mazyck.
The French Huguenot Church was founded around 1681 by Protestant refugees escaping persecution in France.
“From 1680 through 1760, hundreds of Huguenots arrived in the Lowcountry, seeking religious freedom and safety from persecution. Many abandoned considerable wealth and social prominence simply for the opportunity to practice their Protestant faith,” according to John E. Cuttino, president of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina.
Book reviews, when done well, can provide useful history lessons in and of themselves.
“Mr. Coolidge’s hallmark was distrust of government. He saw it as an entity that uses ‘despotic exactions’ (taxes) that sap individual initiative and prosperity across the board …” according to publication.
“Coolidge learned at first towards the surging progressive movement, which supported state intervention and union involvement in the economy,” the review adds. “But his views shifted when he saw what those ideas meant in practice.”
The Economist is not noted for being a publication of a particularly libertarian bent by any means, but it recognizes Coolidge’s achievements during his five-and-a-half years as president, during which American debt fell by one-third, the tax rate by half and unemployment dropped precipitously. It’s unfortunate that more Americans haven’t taken note of Coolidge’s accomplishments.
While no means perfect, Coolidge offers an interesting counterbalance to FDR and his New Deal approach.
As anyone with more than one child can tell you, each has a distinct personality, no matter how much they look alike or how close they are in age.
Among my five girls I have a set of twins. The younger twin is much like her father: loves to read, enjoys the outdoors and everything agriculture-related, and likes catching critters. The older twin is much more of a “girl-girl,” big on hanging out with friends, keeping up with what’s cool and is easily embarrassed by dad’s antics.
Two other big differences between her and me: she has yet to “inherit” my love of history, and she has a gift for gab of which I could only dream. Those two characteristics were in evidence earlier this week.
While driving my four younger girls (ages 12, 11, 11 and 9) to their other house recently, I employed a David-and-Goliath metaphor to describe a situation, to which Daughter No. 3, the older twin, responded, “What does that mean?” I said, “You’re familiar with David and Goliath, right?” She said she was.
Knowing this one pretty well, I pressed her. “Okay, tell me something about David and Goliath.”
“Uh, one of them killed the other.”
“Which one killed the other?” I asked.
“Goliath killed David?” she offered.
I tilted the rearview mirror down so I could look at her. She had a sheepish grin. “Are you telling me that after eight years of religious education you don’t know the story of David and Goliath?”