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Archive for ‘The Friday Fillip’ Feature

The Friday Fillip: Pass on It or Pass It On

There is the duty of abstaining from bothering your neighbours with remarks about the weather, or platitudinarianisms upon things in general.
The Times, September 4, 1873 [via OED]

As a complainant or two has reminded me, I’ve already bothered you about the weather — well, about winter, but same diff — and now I shall ignore this advice yet again and bother you about advice, a particular species of platitudinarianism. For a long time after 1873, when this wise judgment was issued, most of the bothering was done in person, and if you wanted to avoid it you could have . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Immortal Hand or Eye?

What is it about beauty? You can’t eat it. You can’t spend it. You can’t get agreement on it. Yes, what is beauty, anyway?

Some would say it depends on whom you ask — that is, that beauty lies, well, not in the holder but in the beholder, a projection, in effect. Others would espouse a version of that in which the beholder is an entire culture and beauty is a matter of group-think. Still others go even wider, making beauty a phenom of nature, which is more or less to say that beauty is an objective reality at least . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Changing and Staying the Same

Some things change. Some things stay the same. And some things do both.

We all know people who maintain aspects of their character even as they age. Heck, our own selves are perfect examples of this business of changing and remaining: despite life’s continual renewal we maintain a sense of constant identity — “Identity” from Latin idem, the same — but the same as what? as yesterday? and the day before? and so into regression back to the beginning of no character at all? (If this sort of thing interests you, have a look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Sunlight Serenade

I’m partial to daylight.

So it’s probably no wonder that around this time of year here in the Northern Hemisphere I become fascinated by the wanderings of the sun. And even though I’m way down south in Canada, as these things go — on a line1 with Rome and northern California — I’m still light deprived, getting barely more than nine hours at the moment out of the available 24. At noon the sun only just crests a four storey building. Bah!

Now I know you can’t push the river (until it freezes) — or Sol for that matter. . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Boxing Day and Hard Times

It’s Boxing Day. The name is of uncertain origin but one thing seems clear about the day: there’s a tradition attached to it, in Europe at least, of giving to those less fortunate. This is good. More so these days, perhaps, because of our inversion of the tradition from a day of giving into yet another day of getting, as the “sales” shout at us from all quarters.

I thought I might “sing” at you instead of hawking wares, sing songs on the theme of hard economic times, because for all of our great wealth, indeed luxury, there are still . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Hues Kidding

Pantone. Pan – tone. All the colours. This is quite a boast and it puts me in mind of the claim by a friend a long, long time ago that his collection of the then new tape cassettes formed, in his words, “the total library of recorded sound.”

How many colours are there?

This is one of those questions that have no answers and far too many answers. On one of its web pages, Pantone, a commercial system for matching colours in printing ink and in paint, claims a measly 2096. “Measly” because logic suggests that there is . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Sans Everything

One winter day, not too long ago, I found myself at the edge of a small bay on Lake Ontario. The night had been still and so the bay had frozen as smooth as if Zambonied. There was no snow on the ice. Prompted by some childhood impulse, I picked up a smooth stone from the shore and fired it to slide out along the frozen surface. To my amazement the ice sang under the caress of the stone. Disbelieving, I tried it again. And again. Each time an uncanny sound returned to me, something like the whine of a . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Modding Things

Nothing works the way it’s supposed to. At least it can seem like that sometimes. And the things in our life have been fractious long before they were also chip-driven.

Click image to enlarge

You can bet that the homo erectus who carved this lovely pattern into a shell more than half a million years ago had more than one shark tooth scribe split or crack or just plain resist the plan. And it doesn’t bear thinking how many stone axe heads have flown off at critical junctures over the millennia.

Things, as we all know, have minds of their . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: The Eleventh Month

Here, north of the equator, November is the Thursday of months. (Just as Thursday is the November of days.)

It stands between you and a big holiday stretch, with nothing to offer but accumulating weariness and the irritating jingling telltales of better times to come — but not yet.

Worse, November is dark, and when it’s not dark it’s grey. In fact, thanks to the increasingly contemned daylight saving time, November hosts the darkest morning of the year, a treasure that you might think would belong to the winter solstice. However, just before DST ends, which happened this year on . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Through a Glass Darkly

The world is a great deal bigger than we know, bigger than we can even imagine. This, at least, we understand, albeit at one of those unhelpful meta levels in our culture’s epistemology. It is the task of science and religion, I suppose, to toil away perpetually at the ever present rockface of the unknown. But somewhere between the physics and the metaphysical we ordinary folk can catch occasional glimpses of the extraordinary, the glint of something unconsidered.

I don’t mean to make it sound as though these insights are always numinous or portentous. They may be, of course, but . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Sound Arguments

We are all rhetors. Lawyers more than most, using words to persuade, which is to say arguing. Most people think of arguing as a negative thing, emphasizing the fact of disagreement, disharmony. But, of course, just as it takes two to tango, so it takes two to have an argument, and the latter, like a tango, needs the pair to engage and stay responsive to each other. A good argument is, in fact, an exercise in careful cooperation. It’s a duet.

Most duets in music don’t display the aggressive edge that arguments can have, opting to explore the harmonious side . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Les Mots Justes and Justice

I’ve long thought that law and poetry share a number of interesting features, or, to put it another way, live on the same language axis. Look at what’s valued in both:

  • concision: indeed a parsimony, a precisely “shaped charge,” if you will, brought about in law’s case by the notion of relevance and the wish to do as little harm as possible, and in the case of poetry brought about by the poet’s wish to capture and express something real and true and specific.
  • precision: by this I mean taking very great care, word by word, to choose
. . . [more]
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