The Battle of the Somme began 100 years ago today. About a million soldiers were killed before it was done. Different countries have taken different leasons from it. In Canada we resolved that we would never again take orders from British officers, though we did, and do. Ulstermen took the opposite leason: Britain could now never abandon Northern Ireland. Philippe Delestre makes a point about the purpose of the European Union. We tend to think of the EU in terms of its relationship with outside threats, but at its most fundamental level it's there to protect European youth from European politicians.
"There is a shadow, but it is the shadow of the fear of Death, and the shadow of greed. But there is also a shadow of darker evil. We no longer see our king. His displeasure falleth on men, and they go out; they are in the evening, and in the morning they are not. The open is insecure; walls are dangerous. Even by the heart of the house spies may sit. And there are prisons, and chambers underground. There are torments; and there are evil rites. The woods at night, that once were fair -- men would roam and sleep there for delight, when thou wert a babe -- are filled now with horror. Even our gardens are not wholly clean, after the sun has fallen. And now even by day smoke riseth from the temple: flowers and grass are withered where it falleth. The old songs are forgotten or altered; twisted into other meanings."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road and Other Writings, page 68.
Tolkien started and abandoned the novel The Lost Road in the mid-1930s. The political situation described above takes place on the island of Numenor in the Second Age, but it's hard not to read into it an awareness on the author's part of events in Europe in the Thirties.
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
In case you hadn't heard, today Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning British monarch of all time, surpassing the previous record holder, Victoria. She is 89, and has reigned for 63 years and a bit. Her eventual successor, Charles, will become the oldest person to ascend the throne, and is already a pensioner.
In 2006 the province of Nova Scotia reserved 300 acres of land northwest of Sydney Mines, Cape Breton for the development of a spaceport. PlanetSpace, a London, Ontario company founded to exploit NASA's switch to commercial launch and catch an anticipated boom in space tourism, claimed it could build the spaceport for $200 million, and have a spacecraft flying by 2009. The argument in favour of Cape Breton was that it was northerly enough to compete with Baikonur, and far enough from population centres that falling debris wouldn't be a bother.
Well, the government of Nova Scotia never saw a get rich scheme it didn't want to buy into. But above and beyond the fantasy budget figures and timetable, there were two major problems with this concept. One, the ground around Sydney Mines is a honeycomb of old mineshafts. They've been digging coal there since the 18th century. The forces involved in space launches would have led to subsidence and maybe even fire. The other is that Cape Breton is right underneath the eastward trail of jet airliners traveling from the US to Europe. The population you're trying to stay clear of would be right there above your head.
PlanetSpace failed to secure a NASA contract. It held its last annual meeting in 2010, and was unincorporated by the Canadian government in 2013. To date no tourist has gone into space except aboard Soyuz, which was available before. But the dreamlives on.