Margaret MacMillan: The War That Ended the Peace

Margaret MacMillan, arguably Canada’s pre-eminent historian (who teaches at Oxford), has recently released another grand narrative concerning the First World War. Her earlier work, 1919, combined a fascinating subject with solid archival work and a really great narrative style: the trifecta for the historian.

The War that Ended the Peace re-casts the traditional narrative of World War 1 from the “War to End All Wars” to the title of her latest work, an end to peace. Many historians see the period from 1914-1945 as a second Thirty Years War, but on a grander scale. If this is so, how could Europe have gone nearly a century without war (the revolutionary activities of the 1848 period notwithstanding) and then careen into three decades of war? Starting with the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900, MacMillan traces the lines that would lead to war a decade later. MacMillan weaves together stories of changing technology, national prejudices, cynicism, brilliance and stupidity that would hurl Europe toward destruction and herald the emergence of new Powers. MacMillan takes a traditional Canadian approach recognizing that the diplomatic peace that was established early in the 19th century allowed economic development but that this was precarious and not inevitable. Peace meant continuous State management. Negotiations and discussions were they key to managing the Balance of Powers. The “balance” was artificial. Progress was not inevitable. The peace that allowed for the economic and material growth in Europe necessitated cool heads willing to negotiate and practice Power Politics. This was what was lost along the way, MacMillan argues.

More here.

Varia – August, 2013

I had to take the day off from work today since I pulled a hamstring at the gym this morning running interval sprints. So here I sit, ice pack and all. What it does allow, however, is to get back to posting and watching some movies. First up is Sam Pekinpah’s 1975 film The Killer Elite with James Caan and Robert Duvall. While not in the same top tier of Pekinpah’s classics, I do recall that I enjoyed this movie when I saw it years ago. More at IMDB here.

Tristan and Marion have taken possession of their new home, a few blocks away. Friday evening was a minor gathering of sorts where I met the parents of T/M’s friends in Pittsburg and Tristan’s squash partner. I had a very nice night drinking champagne and looking at some Paris pictures with Yves and Giselle. I am very envious since they both leave soon for several months in wonderful Paris where they spend lots of time. I’m hoping to have coffee with them in Paris and learn more about that wonderful city from Yves, who has already suggested picturesque spots that I didn’t even know existed! And did I mention how beautiful T/M’s new place is? A great space!

And I helped Darren move their stuff into their new place steps away from Westboro beach! i know that the kids will love being so close to the beach, being that they just moved from their house close to Kitsilano Beach on the wet coast. A really great house with fantastic character and a great backyard! Great neighbourhood and wonderful space.

So here are some links to various things that have piqued my interest over the last few days:

Metabones has introduced a speedbooster for my micro 4/3rd camera!! I have only recently been introduced to this technology but, from what I can gather, this will not only increase the size of the sensor image to close to full-frame, but it will also give me a full stop of light. My Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, for example, would become closer to an 8-9mm f2!!!!!! I do, however, still have some research to do!

Hunter S. Thompson’s daily drug itinerary is fascinating here. Essentially cocaine from the time of waking up (3 pm) until marijuana at 6.

Also from Open Culture. My favorite horror novel The Raven, read by Vincent Price, Christopher Walken, and Christopher Lee. Poe’s work will go back into my reading list as we approach October, me thinks! Here.

My birthday is coming up for anyone who wants to buy me this $82,000 complete Nikon camera and lens set. Including the $18,000 400mm!

A 375 year old Bonsai that survived Hiroshima here. A beautiful Japanese white pine. I love bonsai and this is certainly a beautiful example!

Here are some fascinating “infographics” or mental maps showing timelines of human history. Great website to explore!

And street artist Above paints what I think might the coolest graffiti of the year 🙂

That’s it for now. I’m going to hobble to the kitchen now for some lunch!

About two months

May 15 was the date that I posted about reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. Today it was announced that they are making it into a movie. Wow. That was fast! And at least Ron Howard is directing again.

World War Z

So that book about the approaching zombie apocalypse, World War Z, is soon out at the theatres. I had meant to read the book. Alas, Hollywood’s ability to convert text to pixels is outpacing my ability to read. Truly Sad. Here is a link to the movie website. It is quite a nicely integrated site with my iPad.

As I ruminated on the continued proliferation of the zombie genre I couldn’t help but to think that, like Paul Krugman and other, that the zombie metaphor is the metaphor of the age: no matter how dead you think an idea is, wrong. It is still alive. Ideas that inhibit the growth of our culture and our society still linger, old hatreds die hard. Or, I think, don’t die at all. Horror movies used to have a single threat, a Jason or a Freddie. Now all of use are potentially the destroyer of all that is good. So much for inevitable progress!

I’ll put the zombie movie on my list, although that list is growing and no plans to hit the theatres in my immediate future. Oh, and Superman looks good too! Nice iPad site too!

Things Fall Apart: The Death of Chinua Achebe

I read Things Fall Apart many years ago and remember Achebe’s first novel as strong message against colonialism (published in 1958) and cultural imperialism. The role of christianity in the destruction of traditional societies is a common motif throughout Achebe’s work and he became a symbol for anti-colonial literature around the world, including indigenous peoples here in Canada. Achebe died this morning in Boston at the age of 82.

I suggest, if you have the desire and the time, to read this book in conjunction with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) to see the opposing visions of sub-Saharan Africa, one through the eyes of the colonizer, the other, the eyes of the colonized.


iOS storyboards

I am loving learning Xcode! Really different from Actionscript but does share a lot of common object-oriented best practices.

I started with a great book from Apress called Beginning iOS Storyboarding here.


I decided that after watching The Hobbit last night in glorious 1080p that I would re-visit the book. I had forgotten how wonderful a writer that Tolkien was! An excellent way to spend an afternoon! 🙂

Books I’m Reading

One thing that I do want to continue to blog about is the books that I am currently reading.

Ian Wei, Intellectual Culture in Medieval Paris: Theologians and the University, c.1100-1330. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

One of my favorite subjects in grad school was medieval history, thanks to Dr. K.Fianu. I was, and still am, quite interested in the emergence of various corporate entities such as towns and universities, and how these entities emerged to form such powerful and long lasting intrusions into human cultures and our societies. Ian Wei focuses on the emergence of Paris University and its contribution to early European intellectual history. I’m not done yet but will give more details about this fascinating subject!