Showing posts from April, 2010


In a fit of injudicious housekeeping, I managed to delete my blogroll... Hence there's only a couple of entries over to the right, where previous there were the most up to date editions of around 40 different blogs, from all sorts of backgrounds. I have neither the time nor inclination to seek them all out again, and this is perhaps a serendipitous way of starting afresh...
But I would appreciate your help dear reader. If you have a blog yourself, or would recommend one, please send me an appropriate link/URL.


Over that Bridge Again...

Well, I did promise... although with the passage of time and other intervening events I do wonder why... But given that I've recently posted on another play that touches on some of the issues that face working class Northern Ireland, and particularly the protestant part of it, I thought I should return to look at Sam Thompson's "Over the Bridge." I've already foisted an outrageously long post on you, dissecting Martin Lynch's recent adaptation of it, but I thought it might also be useful to look at some of the reasons why it is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most important modern Irish plays...
There are a number of reasons:
The Physical Context - The Shipyard
In a moment of unguarded honesty a few years ago, when Harland and Wolff was teetering on the brink of total closure, a political representative with responsibilities for trade and industry said that the shipyard was a dreadful place... Full of asbestos and other noxious substances that will …

Link Up

Haven't done one of these "linkdumps" in a long while... Its a lot easier these days just to "share" relevant pages on facebook as I spot them, but I've read a few pieces over recent days that are worthy of greater reflection than much of what is on facebook... And I know that some of you, gentle readers, have not yet joined the timewasting world of social networking.
First, as an additional ps to my own somewhat frivolous reflection on the Icelandic eruption as an "act of God" Kim Fabricius suggests that it might indeed be an act of judgement... just not as we usually understand it...
Meanwhile, over at First Things, David Bentley Hart has done an extensive hatchet job on the laziness of thinking within the New Atheist Movement (an accusation which its proponents often level at Christians). He isn't dismissing atheism as such, indeed he describes atheism and scepticism as "noble, precious, and even necessary traditions," before going …


Last night I was at a concert by Brian Houston and Ken Haddock back at my old school... A fine, upstanding, and overwhelmingly middle class grammar school on the Gold coast of County Down... Whilst there I discovered that a year 9 English class had gone to Marie Jones' new play at the Waterfront Studio, and had to leave at the interval, seemingly because the language was foul, the subject matter was unsuitable and the production was poor.
This was a little unsettling to hear, since Sally and I had booked to go to the same show tonight. But since neither of us are 13 year old school children (and haven't been for some considerable time) we decided to risk it all the same. And I'm glad I did, because it was a good night out. Yes the language is somewhat ripe, but its set in a doss-house in a run-down inner city loyalist estate, so it wasn't going to be the repartee of the likes of Terence Rattigan... And whilst it was a little melodramatic towards the end and the stage f…

Vote Match

Yeah! Someone has actually taken the time to do the work required to filter the potty-politics of Northern Ireland through an on-line programme to help us poor bewildered voters decide where to put our x. Didn't learn too much through it and where I put my x probably won't make any difference in this constituency but its worth a look, if only to confirm your prejudices...

You are reading this because your browser doesn't support Iframes.

Try this link instead.


The Seismic Effect of Short Skirts

Given that the pall of volcanic ash had drifted over Europe for a week, grounding most commercial air traffic, I was just thinking that we hadn't heard any pronouncements from Pat "Rent-a-quote" Robertson or his ilk, telling us that this was a sign of God's wrath (perhaps if the wind had blown the ash over the US rather than over Europe it would have registered), when I came across this reference to a report by the Association of Orthodox Experts. According to them this is a "menacing sign of God" caused either by the fact that Iceland is a centre of Aryan neo-paganism or/and the hoary old issue of homosexuality.
However as William Crawley pointed out on his blog a couple of days ago, it is not just fundamentalist Christians who offer such supernatural analyses of natural disasters. Last Friday, Islamic cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, told worshippers in Tehran that the all-too-frequent earthquakes in Iran were down to the immodest dress of women there.

A …

Vote for Policies

Came across this interesting programme yesterday through Richard Hall's "Connexions" blog, which has posted some great little titbits recently. It allows you to do a "blind tasting" of the policies of the "6 main UK Parties". I spent my lunch hour looking at the whole gamut of policies, and my results can be found, here... I seem to be 50/50 Green/LibDem, which is a little surprising to me. The Greens seem to be winning out overall, which may say more about the cross-section of people doing the survey than it does about the election, while in real life the LibDems are still buoyed up by their leader's performance last Thursday... We'll see if that holds up after the other 2 come gunning for him this week.
The main areas where I had difficulty in choosing were under the Health Service and Welfare, which, as a traditional leftie you would think would be cut and dried for me... I went back and checked out what my alternative choice might have been…

Where does real power lie?

As promised earlier... here's Sunday morning's review of the week on downtown Radio's "Dawn Reflections" suitably amended.
2 British firsts this week… The first ever televised debate between party leaders in the run up to a general election… and the first time that all of UK airspace was closed…
I only caught a little of the party leaders debate… another sign of the increasing Americanisation of Britain and its politics, where government is becoming more presidential and about presentation than about real local constituency politics… The little I did hear concerned the economy and it left me a little depressed with each of the leaders repeating stock phrases again and again, in an attempt to bludgeon their ideas into the minds of the electorate… Cameron telling us that he would “cut waste and cut the job tax”… Brown telling us that the tories would “risk the recovery” with their policies… and Nick Clegg, who seemed to fare best overall, saying that the parties shou…

Preparing for the End?

I was doing my monthly stint on Downtown Radio's Sunday Morning Show "Dawn Reflections" this week, doing a review of the week's news (I'll post that later) and flicking through the morning papers... Of course they were overwhelmingly about the election and the chaos caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption... but one small comment I missed was in Atticus' column on in the Northern Irish Edition of the Sunday Times...
It regards the launch last week of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's "sheep and goat identification inspections." Is this, together with the apocalyptic events in Iceland, a sign of the end times?


Election Watch 1

Whilst the rest of the UK will watch the first presidential, sorry, party leaders' debate tomorrow evening, I'll be doing something more useful... like banging my head off a brick wall... Because it doesn't matter who we vote for here in Northern Ireland... the government will still get in... and whether it is Labour, Tory or (lets indulge in fantasy here) LibDem we won't have a hand in it... Well, that would normally be the case... but this time round the Tories have tied themselves to the previously sinking ship that is the UUP... There were historic links between the Unionists and Conservatives so this is not entirely without precedent... but it has served to make my personal electoral choice much more complicated... You see I tend towards the left on the electoral map (you'd never guess) and although I feel enormously let down by the "New" Labour government, and (worryingly) have found myself agreeing (occasionally) with some of the things being said …

Some Thoughts on Politics and Democracy

“Once every five years, everyone chooses to forget what they’ve learnt. Democracy in action.” The Doctor (as scripted by Stephen Moffatt)

As unusual as it is for me to be cynical about anything, this timely quote in last Saturday's Dr. Who sent me scurrying to my books of quotations to see what others have said about politics, politicians and the precious gift of democracy. It seems as if, from the earliest of times, people had a pretty low opinion of the whole sordid business: "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to office."

"Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing."
Bernard Baruch
"it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Winston Churchill
"Democracy consists of chosing your dictators, after they've told you what they think you want to hear." Alan Coren
"The word ‘politics’ is derived from the…

Clash of the Movies

As I warned, gentle reader, this past week I've been elsewhere, and doing as little as I could humanly get away with. I have, however, taken the opportunity to go to the cinema a couple of times, once to see the "Blind Side" which I would heartily recommend, and once to see "Clash of the Titans" which I would heartily recommend that you avoid...
The first was warm, life-affirming, well scripted, directed and acted while the second was a shambling, pretentious mess. The first was focused on a decision that was at least partly prompted by the leading character's religious convictions, but that religious dimension was not over-egged. The second was a remake of the 1980's Ray Harryhausen epic, for the digital 3D, new-atheist age producing a plodding, earthbound, humourless, pseudo-humanist take on Greek mythology. Ironically the only smile it induced in me was the nod to the 80s cheesy classic, when the clockwork owl which played such a prominent role in it …

Normal Service Will be Resumed...

Taking a short break from work and blogging in my usual post-Holy Week exhausted state... Hope to be back in the saddle next week. Don't pine away in my absence.
When I return I promise I'll do something on the issues that lie behind the play "Over the Bridge" as I said I would this time last week... my only excuse was that I was a tad busy since then.
Also want to flag up that in future I'll be disabling the direct link with my Facebook site as it seems to be playing silly beggars at the moment, resulting in some posts appearing up to 2 days late... Instead I'll do a manual "share" until such times as the problem seems to be sorted.

Anyway, until I see you in the blogosphere again....


The Stone...

Well today at our Easter morning family service I underwent the indignity of weighing myself in front of the whole congregation at the end of my attempt to "Lose Weight for Lent", with sponsorship going to Dundonald Family and Community Initiative and the Methodist World Development and Relief Fund...

Some suggested that in order to cut down on weight I should have donned an "mankini" but sense prevailed and no-one was traumatised. But those who have sponsored me (and indeed I myself) were surprised and "delighted" to have discovered that I have lost exactly 1 stone (or 14 pounds for our American cousins) in the course of these past 6 weeks.

I had all my excuses ready incase I hadn't lost anything, or (as I feared) had actually put on weight, after making such rash promises...

But the emphasis in worship today was not on me fulfilling my promises but Christ fulfilling his promises to rise from the dead... not on the stone in weight that I had lost, bu…

Into your Hands

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:44-46 (ANIV)
Yesterday's reflection was entitled "It is Finished..." but I wasn't quite finished, and neither was Jesus. Luke's gospel has him using some words of another Psalm, this time Psalm 31, before, finally, breathing his last.
William Barclay tells us that this was the first prayer that every Jewish mother taught her child to pray last thing at night… The Jewish equivalent of the old English prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
Should I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
We've reflected previously on the relationship between Jesus and his mother… Had Mary taught Jesus this prayer? But if his mother had …

It is Finished...

knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty…" A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:25-30 (ANIV) Completed… fulfilled… finished… Three words all drawn from the Greek word “telos” “the end…” Eugene Peterson reflects that repeated use better when he uses the word complete in all three places… And in many ways that word gives a better sense of the words that John’s gospel uses, in that “finished” can tend to give the despairing idea that everything is “done” defeated… As I am sure that his disciples and his mother felt that day… But the word complete carries the idea of "completion"… wholeness… perfection… nothing missing… The final piece of the jigsaw completing the pict…

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Sometimes there is a lot of debate as to exactly what the last thing a dying person has said. When the playwright Oscar Wilde died, there were a number of last words attributed to him. One story has him sipping champagne in his bed and saying "Alas, I am dying beyond my means.” Another, more famously has him saying "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!" He may well have said either, both or neither at some point in the whole process… they certainly sound like him… But they are unlikely to be his very last words as he is said to have converted back to Catholicism on his deathbed and a priest was with him up to the very end, and because of the sanctity of the confessional relationship between priest and parishioner, the priest never disclosed what words were exchanged between them.
Throughout this week I've been looking at the 7 recorded comments of Jesus on the cross. As I wrote earlier, they’re drawn from all 4 Gospels, because no one contains them all. Indeed Matthe…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
No I haven’t lost the plot completely. Over 400 years ago, when they changed over from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, they moved the New Year from the beginning of April and spring, to the beginning of January. And those who refused to change were treated as fools. They were invited to non-existent parties and other pranks were played on them, and it is thought that this may be one of the origins of April Fools’ Day.
But actually all around the world, in many different cultures there are light-hearted festivals at this time of year celebrating the change from winter to spring… Hope, in place of despair…
Easter is part of that. In its pagan origins it was a celebration of fun and fecundity summed up in a decorated egg.
In the Christian celebration it is an exploration of the grounds of hope for humanity.
This week began with the seemingly foolish image of the King of Kings entering into Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey. In John’s Gospel we read:
The next …