An Athenian Coup, or Slapstick Bedtime Story?

For tonight’s lesson, I said to my ten-year-old, tell me how the first democracy was created. “Sure,” she said, remembering our lessons past. “It was in Athens, about 2,500 years ago, and the poor people of Athens were unhappy and getting r...

Comedians in Togas

The Greeks were funny. We don’t usually think of them that way; we think of them as marbled patriarchs in togas, Really Important Men We Revere for Some Reason. Admittedly, we don’t usually think of them at all these days; after inspiring w...

Conversations with Bronze Age Warlords

Pop quiz: What ancient Greek legend begins with the kidnapping of Helen of Troy, and ends with Greeks sneaking into Troy inside a hollow wooden horse? If you said “The Iliad,” you’re wrong, as I discovered reading trying to read it to my da...

The Real Social Network

The other night I saw the end of a life well-lived. I didn’t know him; I just saw his funeral. My bus rolled through the dark night I was riding the bus from my job in Dublin to our home in the Irish countryside, and the tiny roads take us ...

Horse Burgers and the Lives of Others

If you could boil our global problems down to seven words, they might be these: we don’t see where stuff comes from. Most of us grew up staring at glowing rectangles without ever seeing a coal-powered turbine. We blithely speed down motorwa...

Classic Cinema and Our Future

I want to see films for all ages, devoid of hip countercultural irony. I want to see low-budget teleplays in which today’s equivalent of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland put on a show to raise money to build allotments in the old park, a new ...

Homewreckers

County Kildare, Ireland. A couple I know – we’ll call them Bob and Nancy — lived in a century-old house in the middle of their town, a few miles from their jobs and surrounded by long-time neighbours. When the last of their children l...