Review: Othello

Posted: November 14, 2014 in Books
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Othello
Othello by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastically horrible play! First time of reading this, again for my Shakespeare and His World course, and once more I found myself drawn into the world of The Bard with the Machiavellian Iago, the conflicted Othello, the noble Cassio, the doomed yet faithful Desdemona and the rest of his wonderful creations. Inevitably spent a lot of time thinking about the contrast between the western Iago and the Moor Othello. Perhaps Othello was seen as the barbaric foreigner, but although his brutal side is brought out by the end of the play, it is the local Iago, one of us, that is the true beast of the plot – a bit like the question of who is the true monster in Frankenstein, the Professor or his creation. I am sure this has much to say to our current debates about multiculturalism and immigration. Of all the plays so far this was one of the most straightforward to read. Definitely recommended.

(https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/shakespeare-and-his-world #FLShakespeare)

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Wonderful to hear Freddie’s voice again on a ‘new’ Queen song. Although I’m disappointed that there are only three ‘new’ tracks on the new Album, Queen Forever, it still remains a thrill to hear their songs for the first time. This one was originally recorded during work on The Works but didn’t make the cut and so wasn’t finished. In the end Anita Dobson, Brian May’s wife, recorded it instead. For the new album Queen returned to it and finished it, and hearing it now I have to wonder why it wasn’t chosen in the first place. Fantastic!

Review: The Merchant of Venice

Posted: November 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Shakespeare's play of the Merchant of Venice Arranged for Representation at the Princess's Theatre, with Historical and Explanatory Notes by Charles Kean, F.S.A.
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another read as part of my Shakespeare course. Read this over the course of a weekend and again thoroughly enjoyed it. This was my first time reading the Merchant of Venice and despite having heard of Shylock I knew little of the plot before the start of the week. Must be getting in the hang of Shakespeare as I was able to follow most of the plot including the sub-plots and twists – definitely enjoyed the twists as the crisis in the story resolved itself. Next up – Othello!

(https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/shakespeare-and-his-world #FLShakespeare)

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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two of my favourite things coming together, Doctor Who and Joanne Harris in this short story! As soon as I discovered this existed or was to exist, it was pre-ordered. Read on two legs of a train journey I absolutely adored it; inevitable really. Won’t say much about it as being a short story it is too easy to to accidentally drop in spoilers, but suffice to say if you like The Doctor and Joanne Harris, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, then you’ll love this sweet and twisted 3rd Doctor tale!

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Review: Whit

Posted: November 7, 2014 in Books
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Whit
Whit by Iain Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first non-SciFi novel by Iain Banks that I’ve read and I found it totally engaging. It’s the story of Isis Whit, the Elect of God in a small and highly quirky religious cult in Stirlingshire. Over the course of the novel her privileged position and life within the community begins to disintegrate leaving her questioning both her faith and her community. As with all previous Iain Banks novels that I’ve read it is a great read and I found myself drawn into this imagined world which despite its bizarre nature has the ring of authenticity to it.

Clearly for me as a Christian minister not only was this a fascinating story, but a critique of faith and religious communities asking questions of the effect of human corruptness and self-centeredness, deliberate or unintentional, upon them. How much of what we do and hold dear is of human original? Banks doesn’t totally dismiss faith or the spiritual life and amongst all the politicking and strife remains the hint of Isis’ Gift, a mystery which he deliberately leaves unanswered, was it real or delusion?

Recommended.

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Review: Henry V

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Books
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Henry V
Henry V by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this as part of the FutureLearn’s Shakespeare and his World course (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/shakespeare-and-his-world #FLShakespeare). Henry V is my first ‘historical’ play by Shakespeare, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Certainly made easier by having finished the appropriate module on the course first meaning I knew the plot, but that said, it is relatively straightforward to follow

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I………… Therefore I Am

Posted: November 2, 2014 in Faith
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I heard a rumour the other day that Blankety Blank, the panel show from my childhood that sticks in my mind most of all, is coming back with Miranda as the proposed host (there’s a link to last night’s gig for you). The idea behind it for those who don’t remember or are too young to have watched it, is that contestants have to fill in a blank in a given sentence, trying to predict the answer given by others. To help them they could call upon a few members of the celebrity panel to offer their answers. Hosted by Terry Wogan with the strangest looking microphone and his Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, this was the show that won the quiz show ratings of its day.

Here’s a phrase for you to try out, what is the blank in ‘I *blank* therefore I am’?

I’m guessing many of you might have offered up ‘think’ as famously stated by Rene Decartes, the French philosopher who argued that being able to think about one’s existence proved it – bonus marks for those who showed off and did it in Latin, ‘dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I doubt therefore I think therefore I am’).

Of course other words could be inserted into this phrase, some humourous, others silly or perhaps serious such as ‘I eat therefore I am’ or ‘I laugh therefore I am’ or even ‘I run therefore I am’. All of these say something about the world we live in at the moment, how we relate to it, and our values. Perhaps something like ‘I like therefore I am’ could capture this well, expressing the self-centred values of our age and picking up on the all-encompassing nature of social media these days with it’s like buttons to show that we enjoyed something which often, dare I say it, has very little depth to it. Reading an article on the BBC website today I wondered if their writer would fill the blank with ‘consume’. This would certainly ring true I think, in so many ways we value things by what they have to offer me or give to me rather than of what good are they for society or for the planet or for what moral value they hold?

I wonder what the Bible and its characters might offer to us. Thomas would be nearer Decartes with ‘I doubt therefore I am’. Peter would offer ‘I do it and think later therefore I am’, Martha, ‘I wash up therefore I am’ and Mary, ‘I listen therefore I am’. But what about Jesus? What would he say? In the true spirit of Blankety Blank I leave it to you to suggest an answer!

Church newsletter, 2nd November 2014