My writing about history and culture has appeared in the LA Times, Maclean's and the Toronto Star, been featured on CBC Radio's Tapestry and chatted about on Slate's Political Gabfest.
The contrasting legacies of two sibling mayors from Montreal
Jean-Louis Beaudry devoted his life to public service, but few Montrealers know about him. In L.A., meanwhile, kid brother Prudent continues to be venerated.
How the Union Army’s Beloved Marching Song Became a French Christmas Favorite
An abolitionist standard, now with nutmeg.
The tragic story of a Canadian vaccine trailblazer
He was called a “savant” and a “savior,” thought a contender for a Nobel Prize and named alongside John Steinbeck as an American “genius whose work will live on through the centuries.” Four years later he was dead of a heart attack, though one former colleague called it a suicide.
How these Canadian masked maestros are conducting experiments in multimedia and livestreams to make orchestral music relevant during pandemic
Conducting an orchestra is among the most rarefied and coveted positions in the performing arts. But during the pandemic, it’s a job that’s been upended like everyone else’s.
“It’s very unsettling because we don’t know how to do our jobs in the way we’ve always done them,” says Rosemary Thomson, Music Director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. “But there’s two sides to that coin.”
11 Wonderful Old Words for Lunch
There are many kinds of lunch. There are brown-bag ones, three-martini ones, power ones, and working ones. There are ones “for wimps” and ones for “ladies,” though, alas, there are no “free” ones.
The tenor who seduced and swindled a city
Herbert Cumberland Wilson was a man of extraordinary musical gifts, but also many misdeeds.
The ‘Sault’ part stuck but the full name has had its days
City’s history has seen multiple variations since Champlain named the site after a seditious royal who backed the wrong Duke.
Why 1920s L.A. Went Wild for a 19th-Century Scottish Novelist
On a hot November day in 1926, a 13-year-old boy dressed as the Pied Piper led more than 1,000 children not out of town, but to the Central Library of Los Angeles.
The 18th-Century Reason Biden's VP Pick Should Be a Night Owl
It's all about a love of lucubration.
* Featured on Slate's Political Gabfest
7 People Killed by Musical Instruments
We’re used to taking it figuratively. One “slays” on guitar, is a “killer” pianist, or wants to “die” listening to a miraculous piece of music. History, though, is surprisingly rich with examples of people actually killed by musical instruments.
Purtorah, a town meant to save a fortune
In the spring of 1892 Arthur Rankin was in trouble. A hefty mortgage on his property adjoining the east side of Sault Ste. Marie was overdue. His lender, one of the richest men in Toronto, had already taken Rankin to court to force its sale. An arrangement with another financial backer had cost him a third of his equity and bought him only a year to find a buyer. The year was up.
Naples memorialized its 17th century plague with a festival for healing, and so should we after COVID-19
* Featured on CBC Radio's "Tapestry."
20 Latin Insults You Should Know
The Cambridge classicist Mary Beard became briefly notorious in 2009 (though not for the first or last time) when she was bleeped at length on NPR for quoting an ancient Roman poem—in Latin.
Given up for dead
It came as a surprise to everyone gathered at the Sault Ste. Marie post office when the two men arrived; they had just been reported dead.