Those are the closing lines of a short poem called Thanksgiving Magic by Rowena Bastin Bennett (b. 1896) that arrived in my mailbox this morning, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation. The foundation does a number of wonderful things, including publishing Poetry magazine and mailing out a poem every day of the week to subscribers. It runs a very useful website where you are pretty sure to find what you are looking for -- and much else besides. I just searched a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called The Windhover, and there it was. Then I tried G. K. Chesterton, and there he was. I recommend subscribing to their Poem of the Day newsletter as it is a simple way of recalling old favourites and sampling poets you have never read before. Arguably, our era needs more of the contemplative moments provided by the poets to reprieve minds that too easily become mere conduits for information.
It will be Thanksgiving Day in the United States when this update arrives in your box. If you don't know much about this wonderfully named festival, retired American history teacher Claire Cullen has provided a helpful sketch of its origins. In the current climate -- and I don't mean global warming -- it will be salutary for Americans to remember, as they eat their turkey with cranberry sauce, that they owe the holiday to a bunch of Englishmen who preferred to go into voluntary exile than forfeit their religious freedom.
To make your mouth water -- and because it really is helpful -- we have run the popular New York Times video, How to Carve a Turkey on the front page. Enjoy!
November 25th is designated by the UN as as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is also known as White Ribbon Day, after the international movement of men and boys originating in Canada. We have two features on the theme. Since young women are the most at risk of this type of violence I have suggested 8 things every girl should know to reduce her risk. And Canadian writer Barbara Kay tackles the issue of honour killings and the unwillingness of some feminists to distinguish between such culturally sanctioned murders and domestic violence. Very touchy subjects but not to be avoided.
And while you're at it, please visit our new Facebook page for Reading Matters, our blog for reading for young people, edited by Jennifer Minicus from New Jersey. We hope that it will be a great place for carrying on converations about the best books for kids. www.facebook.com/ReadingMatters2000/
And, when you are finished, don't miss Carolyn Moynihan's splendid article on the censorship of an advertisement of the Lord's Prayer placed by the Anglican Church in cinemas. It's not the government which is at fault but an advertising distribution agency. At a time when privatisation is all the rage, even censorship is being privatised.
At the turn of 20th Century, Europe and the United States were gripped by panic over bomb-throwing anarchists.
In 1881, Tsar Alexander II of Russia was killed by a bomb. In 1893, an anarchist hurled a bomb into the Barcelona Opera, killing 20 people. In 1894, an Italian anarchist stabbed the President of France, Sadi Carnot, to death. In 1900 King Umberto of Italy and in 1901 US President William McKinley were shot dead by anarchists. In 1913 an anarchist killed King George I of Greece.
And those are just a few of the major assassinations by anarchists. Yet the movement died out. Civilisation survived. The panic subsided. Will the Islamic State follow the same trajectory?
Two days ago a New Zealand rugby legend died suddenly and the effect on the country is equivalent to the death of a popular monarch or war hero. Jonah Lomu was literally a giant of the rugby field, outstanding enough to make an impression on someone (myself) for whom sport is a matter of peripheral vision.
Apparently he was known locally as a “gentle giant”, although if you watch the video clip with Marcus Roberts’ nice tribute you can see him running right over the top of an English player. Ouch! That was at the Rugby World Cup played in South Africa in 1995, where Lomu rocketed to international fame.
Funnily enough, I watched clips from the final of that tournament recently in the film Invictus, which is about another hero, Nelson Mandela. The two men had almost nothing in common, I would say, except that they had found something to be passionate about: Lomu his rugby, Mandela, the much more serious game of truth and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa. They both had things to struggle with in their lives, but both did something good for their country. I think we can learn from both of them.
There’s nothing like a Vatican scandal to spice up an editor’s front page, even if the scandal is not new, and even if it is not quite as shocking as headlines suggest. That seems to be the case with the latest “Vatileaks” affair centering on two books published in Italy a couple of weeks ago and based on leaked documents about mismanagement of the Holy See’s finances.
As you see, we did not rush into the kerfuffle created by Gianluigi Nuzzi’s Merchants in the Temple and Emiliano Fittipaldi’s Avarice, the most sensational part of which was the arrest of a priest who had a role in a task force reviewing the Vatican’s finances. There was no need, as the suggested reforms had already been set in motion by the Pope at the beginning of last year.
The books are, as Austen Ivereigh points out, mainly of historical interest, giving supposedly juicy details of what was going amiss rather than how things are done now. For those who care about the Catholic Church and want to understand what Pope Francis wants to reform, Austen’s article probably tells you as much as you want to know.
It's very seldom that we hear the father's side of an abortion -- or if we do, it's the story of an uncaring brute forcing his girlfriend to get rid of an inconvenient accident. But there are men who want the child. Below Caroline Farrow narrates the history of an acquaintance of hers who failed to stop the abortion in time.
Not once in this man’s decision was there an element of patriarchy -- wanting to control her uterus or chain her to the kitchen sink. This guy realised that he loved his unborn baby and wanted them to live.
It's both touching and revealing. Read it and pass it on.
On the off chance you hadn’t noticed, the English language is changing. This came to my attention a while ago when US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, and no dummy, sent out a tweet asking her fans for responses written in emojis. Pictographs are not a great medium for communicating subtle nuances, so I hope that she doesn’t lose her grasp on more conventional ways of expressing herself.
How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.
However, I confess Hillary is more up to date with linguistic change than I am. To my surprise the the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is the "Face with Tears of Joy" emoji although you may know it by other names. It made up about 20 percent of all emojis in the US and UK, so it is a Significant Addition to Our Language. Our lead story (see below) mentions other ways in which la lengua she está cambiando.
After an ISIS attack in Paris which has left at least 129 dead, hundreds of articles have been written explaining what inspires the movement and what attracts so many young people to it. But the answer is that we just do not understand what makes it tick, what explains its murderous "success". One of the best articles I have read on the group appeared in the New York Review of Books a few months ago. An anonymous expert confessed that he was baffled:
I have often been tempted to argue that we simply need more and better information. But that is to underestimate the alien and bewildering nature of this phenomenon. To take only one example, five years ago not even the most austere Salafi theorists advocated the reintroduction of slavery; but ISIS has in fact imposed it. Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult to reverse as the rise of ISIS. None of our analysts, soldiers, diplomats, intelligence officers, politicians, or journalists has yet produced an explanation rich enough—even in hindsight—to have predicted the movement’s rise.
Nonetheless we have to try to make sense of ISIS so that we can respond effectively to its challenge. We have published two articles below.