The Brazilian Cat. A Tale Of Terror By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Podcast)

This podcast is a reading of A. Conan Doyle’s terrifying tale “The Brazilian Cat.”  First published in 1898, the story describes the ordeal of a young heir to a fortune who is deliberately locked in a cage with a ferocious jungle cat by a sinister relative determined to murder him.

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The Roman Gestures Of The Clenched Thumb, And The Turned Down Thumb

The meaning of hand gestures may vary widely from culture to culture.  In the modern West, approval is popularly expressed by the “thumbs up” sign, and disapproval by the downward turn of the thumb.  These hand gestures even seem to be universal, at least in the modern era.  But perhaps it was not always so.  The humanist Angelo Poliziano’s Miscellanies contains a passage in chapter 42 of his book that raises some doubts, at least to my mind.  Philology may shed some light on the subject.

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The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid (Podcast)

In this podcast, I read H.G. Wells’s short story The Flowering of the Strange Orchid.  It relates the weird tale of a mild-mannered orchid enthusiast who buys an unknown species of jungle orchid.  As he cultivates it, he finds out that he got more than he bargained for.  This story was first published in Pearson’s Magazine in 1905 and remains a potent tale of unease.

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The Meaning Of The Augury Of Safety

The Renaissance humanist Angelo Poliziano (1454—1494) composed a work called Miscellanies (Miscellaneorum Centuria Prima) that discussed various issues in classical literature, philology, and linguistics.  Now while this sort of work may not suitable for every taste, it is certainly congenial to mine.  What may be trifles to some, turn out to be treasure to others; and the meandering flow of critique and discussion may, like swift-moving mountain streams gurgling through sand and rock, reveal here and there some flecks of gold ore for our enrichment.

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A Sudden Punch To Shatter Glacial Rigmarole (Podcast)

When things have reached a state of paralysis or gridlock, it is often necessary to shatter the paralysis by taking decisive, muscular action.  Real leaders do not sit on their hands and wait to test the prevailing winds of opinion.  Have the moral courage to act.  Many today who call themselves “leaders” ignore or have forgotten this principle.  This podcast discusses three historical examples taken from Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis.  They show how he harnessed this concept in 1919 to break through the paralysis that had come to surround several difficult issues.

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A Dog’s Heroism During The Wreck Of HMS “Harpooner”

Whether our canine friends risk themselves out of a conscious sense of duty, or whether they act out of blind instinct, is a question that dog lovers and animal behaviorists will endlessly debate.  It is not an unimportant question.  For if it is true that dogs may, under some circumstances, feel the pull of obligation, then it must follow that they are capable of the noblest emotions, and the stirrings of love.  This was the question that the following sea-story raised.  Buried in a volume of forgotten nautical lore, it describes the heroics of a service dog named King during the wreck of the British transport Harpooner in Newfoundland in 1816.

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“How To Drink” (Book Review)

It is often forgotten that Latin was a primary European language of education and literature until the late eighteenth century.  University lectures were conducted in Latin; textbooks, treatises, doctoral dissertations, legal work, and government publications were composed in Latin; and scientific and religious tracts were written in Latin.  There was a thriving vernacular literature in prose and poetry in every country, of course, but this arrangement co-existed (sometimes uneasily) with the official standard.  Scholars and officials frequently debated the extent to which the vernaculars should replace Latin.  Yet anyone wanting to reach an international audience—which in those days meant the breadth of the European continent—needed to be proficient in the language.  Among the competitive and tussling European states, its neutrality and prestige meant that it was the only language accepted as an international vehicle.

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