September 2021

Contents Related Letters

Re: “Down the Road,” by Kyle Wyatt

I don’t know how history will judge me. Much depends on who holds the pen. My collection of four gas guzzlers comprise twenty-­eight cylinders of carbon-­belching potential that’s mitigated only by how rarely I get to fire them up. They’re in Georgia while I’m in Ontario.

I know whenever I get to drive them, they invariably raise a smile, a thumbs‑up, or a friendly honk from young and old alike. And I’m increasingly aware of how difficult keeping them running will be as mechanics who can spell “carburetor” hang up their wrenches.

I hope they don’t become as vilified as my wife’s mink coat. Like her furrier, the men and women who built my sports cars did their work with pride. I know because some were relatives. I’d like to continue celebrating their passion under an open sky.

I just don’t know if I’ll be permitted.

G. J. Prosser

Re: “At the Crossroads,” by Chris Alexander

One of the reasons that I write history is that I believe through applying analysis and structure to the past, we can sometimes provide useful context that aids us in understanding and solving present problems. In his review of my new book, Blood Washing Blood, Chris Alexander rightly points out that the conflict in Afghanistan continues, in part, because the social issues at its heart have yet to be fully defined or widely understood. At worst, these issues are completely ignored in favour of a Western-focused approach to the problem that almost entirely misses the point.

I intended to achieve two things with my book. First, I hoped to broaden the discourse in society about the conflict in Afghanistan, moving away from purely military or geopolitical points of view to an approach centred on Afghans themselves. Second, I wanted to create greater interest in hearing Afghan voices describe their view of the conflict and their desired solutions. I’m humbled that Alexander sees my efforts as sitting alongside those of Dupree, Ewans, and Barfield, but I hope that the next slew of indispensable histories will be written by Afghans.

I also hope that, despite the current turmoil, Afghanistan is poised to create a government that resolves its long-­standing social conflict in a way that is acceptable to a majority of Afghans — and that the rest of the world supports them in doing so, even if the solution is not what we would have designed ourselves. I’m disappointed to see early signs that upholding the rights of women has been discarded by all sides, but I remain optimistic that this won’t be the case for long.

The only durable solution to the conflict will come from within Afghanistan itself, backed up by the international community in ways that don’t distort the outcomes.

Phil Halton

Re: “Think Big,” by Andre Schmid

Andre Schmid: “This book actually got me in trouble at home, as I kept asking my family, ‘Did you know . . . ’ about some gem of an anecdote.” Same, Andre. Same.

via Twitter

Not a “catastrophist” or an atheist by nature, I thank my god for how the evolution of technology has cushioned humanity from some impacts of our latest pandemic. Ubiquitous computing, cybersecurity awareness, and, I hate to admit, social media have kept the wheels of modern commerce turning. When disaster recovery was an expensive “must-have,” the potential of work from anywhere was a Jetsons storyline. I pray Moore’s Law will continue to keep us one tenuous step ahead.

G. J. Prosser

Re: “Greener Grass,” by Matthew J. Bellamy

When the sale of recreational cannabis became legal in fall 2018, hopes ran high. With stock prices soaring, it was clear that many saw the end of prohibition as a potential bonanza. Now, only three short years later, the fortunes made and spent in those heady days seem like a distant memory.

With state-of-the-art facilities shuttered, ambitious plans for international empires abandoned, and a seemingly endless procession of bankruptcies, the so‑called green rush stands in hindsight as a lesson about the perils of speculation.

However, the entrepreneurs who stay in the cannabis space, much like the plants themselves, are remarkably resilient. As the industry retrenches, the opportunity for a sustainable, homegrown Canadian success story still remains possible. However, it is clear that its foundation must be built through relationships with its customers, and not the intoxicating incentives of capital markets.

Michael Stinson

Re: “Scrolling in the Deep,” by Ella Austin

Ella Austin’s Gen Z perspective on kicking the social media habit offered hope that if there is awareness by her generation of the addictive lure of all the apps, then perhaps there might be actual engagement and discussion among her cohorts.

How encouraging it was to read that Austin realized that “comments sections do not represent real life” and that “it’s impossible for everyone to agree all the time.” And she has returned to reading books instead of scrolling though strings of comments posted by uninformed internet users. Forming differing opinions and being brave enough to post them for others to consider should stimulate new conversations instead of just piling on others’ comments. It is reassuring that the lure of the glowing screen has been acknowledged as being such a waste of valuable time in an unreal world.

Bill Kernohan
Midland, Ontario

Re: “In the Telling,” by Emily Urquhart

Ebooks have another facet worth mentioning. The audiobook edition of The Splendid and the Vile, written by Erik Larson and read by John Lee, ends with a historic low-fidelity recording of a Winston Churchill speech. Hearing it was like time travelling back eighty years; it gave me shivers. Audiobooks can dazzle in a way that printed books simply cannot.

Luke Shwart

Having the perfect excuse to NOT cook, clean, or fold is the top reason why I read, and I resent audiobooks for trying to destroy my life!

via Twitter

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