Friday Fun 28: Aural Nostalgia for an African Day

This is a random Friday Fun. It's not especially funny, although some will probably think this makes me seem very funny, putting me in the same bracket as collectors of birdsong CDs. Too bad. It just so happened that I was searching for some old files on my computer and came across these - I'd completely forgotten I'd made them. But in the few days before we left Uganda in the summer of 2005, I took my rudimentary digital recorder out into the garden and just let it listen.

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60-second adventures in religion

I can't remember who told me about these, but they're fab. The Open University Religious Studies is obviously plugging its wares - but fair enough. The results are wonderful and very useable in all kinds of places I suspect - wryly humoured animation with the added bonus is the wonderfully-suited satirical voice of David Mitchell.

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I Am The MOST IMPORTANT Person I’ve Ever Met

Which is a title sufficiently conceited to put anyone off reading this post. But let's face it - it'sa not uncommon attitude. It lies at the heart of individualism, that pervasiveness western sickness that lies at the root of so many of our ills. It was the title I had in our current series, Great Lies of Our Time (I'm assured that the talks were not allotted because of some particular problem that needed addressing in each speaker - but who can say for sure?). You can now download the talk here.

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Brain-blizzards: walking the path of William Styron’s DARKNESS VISIBLE

I am SO grateful to Frankie who suggested I read William Styron's piercing and affecting 'memoir of madness', Darkness Visible. It was back in July that I ordered it, but only this last Saturday when I read it. It is brief - only 80 pages or so - but gripping. I read it one sitting. It felt like a compulsion - but I know that I will return to it, with greater patience and scrutiny. It was only published in 1990, but is now a classic of its kind. Deservedly.

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Friday Fun 27: The delights of political Amphibology

Well, the US presidential election is in its final month at last. Will any of us sleep safely in our beds again? History has been full of people who have hedged their bets and emulated the venerable Vicar of Bray. And in smaller ways, politicians are doing it all the time. Saying things that don't actually say too many things in case they be accused of actually saying things they don't want to be heard actually to be saying.

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The Lie Factory and the destructive power of political ‘narrative’

The presenting issue behind the article was the hysteria whipped up against Obama's healthcare proposals in the US - something which those of us with 'socialised', crypto-communist medicine in the UK find hard to understand. I do realise that many on the US right are no fools, that the British NHS is far from perfect,  and that there may well be many good grounds for the position(s) they took. But that's not my point here. My main concern is how politics (left and right) throughout the West now (has to) operates. This was the object of Jill Lepore's New Yorker investigation a couple of weeks ago, The Lie Factory.

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The subversive messages of a dollar bill

I'd been vaguely aware of these from a while back, but had never looked carefully at them. It wasn't until they were used as running gags in last week's New Yorker money edition that I sat up and noticed. Dan Tague has created a series of prints in 2008 of dollar bills folded in such a way as to reveal all kinds of subversions of American capitalism and western materialism. There is something rather delicious about making a dollar spell out 'American Idol' or an American revolution battle cry, or the best advice of the contemporary conspiracy theorist. Ingenious

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