Category Archives: Culture

The Saltpeter Mines of Northern Atacama, Chile

Saltpeter, or nitrate, was a major export of Chile until artificial production began in Germany in the thirties. Then, like much of the world staggering as a result of the global depression, Chile suffered from the loss of nearly fifty … Continue reading

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Consumer Misery in Steve Cutts’ “Happiness”

The terrible truth that Steve Cutts reveals in his short animated film “Happiness” is that consumerism entices but does not lead to happiness. His rats are surrounded by consumer messages that promise that they—even the main rat character—will be happy … Continue reading

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Tolerance, Ethics and Conjoined Twins

On CBC radio’s The Current this morning, Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed a doctor who was responsible for the multiple surgeries that separated conjoined twins at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. The story was mostly concerned with the ethical implications … Continue reading

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Living in the City: Boxes

Although he would at times forget the scampering and rustling that marked people amongst the monoliths, like the worms in a graveyard or rats in a sinking ship, at moments he would look up to see the lit windows of … Continue reading

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Preface to my Novel about Colonizing Mars

I first thought about the lone colonist of Mars by the chance association between two very different and, some would say, antithetical ideas. I designed a university course on the changing perception of Mars in literature over the past two … Continue reading

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Yard Sale Culture

Sometimes he felt as though he’d wandered into a world where everyone’s life had been spilled out like a gut-shot man, as if their sentiment and possessions were stacked in boxes at a planet-wide yard sale. He thought of what … Continue reading

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The Flat Earth Experience

In his The Time Machine Weena tries to throw herself in the fire because she has never seen flames before. She doesn’t know that it will burn her and that she should exercise care. She is a figure of profound … Continue reading

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Serendipity and Other People’s Hard Work: Contributing to Intellectual Society

Many years ago, when I used to build computers from found parts, installing hard drives was much more of an ordeal. You needed to look up the serial number of the hard drive in a database—if you were lucky enough … Continue reading

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Toys for Big Boys: Manboys and Manplay

When a local motorcycle and skidoo shop adopted the name “Toys for Big Boys” I would have thought it would mean death for their business. I would have guessed that the overgrown baby that is the man who loves to … Continue reading

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The Winter Solstice and Trying to Explain the Movement of the Sun

Many years ago I found myself trying to explain the movement of the sun during the winter to a class in Victoria, British Columbia, and ever since I have been struck by how cultural knowledge can be allowed or disallowed … Continue reading

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