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Showing posts from 2019

A Side Note

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Following the horrible inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral, I looked up some folklore connected to that great place and recorded this short story (rather padded out from the original anecdote) about a blacksmith called Biscornet - the Two Horned - who supposedly created the ironwork on the side doors.
At the time of posting I do not know if the ornate doors have survived the raging inferno or not. I have come across an article by some modern blacksmiths admiring the artwork and saying how they bewildered to think how the original smiths could have created such things with the technology available to them in the mid-1300s (which, whilst being great praise, does not bode well if the doors do need to be replaced in a manner in keeping with the original).
It is not currently known how the fire started. A testimony to human decency - there is already a sizeable fund to help restore the cathedral, though this work is likely to be enormously expensive and take a great time to do (erecting it in…

Wilde Words

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Saw a staged version of the Picture of Dorian Gray at The Wolsey theatre, which was very well done. Still trying to decide what story to record next so, to get back in the habit of podcasting, I decided to do some of Oscar Wilde's poems.
The first poem is the relatively short The Harlot's House,a beautifully rhythmic piece which was done (far better) by Vincent Price as part of one of his touring plays several decades ago. For those listeners who have the patience for long poems, the second piece is the obligatory Ballad of Reading Gaol which Wilde wrote in the late 1800s to make readers understand how awful his prison experience was and how dreadful execution was. whilst in prison Wilde rediscovered his Christian faith, though his approach to Christ was decidedly more Hellenised than most people's. His spirituality infuses the poem, and observant listeners will note certain phrases that both poems have in common - it could just be that Wilde liked certain words and reuse…

Dreaming of Butterflies

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I recorded this for a student who was unable to get to a particular lecture on Taoist philosophy, but thought it might also interest some other people as well. If any Chinese people happen to listen to this, I apologise in advance for my godawful attempts at pronouncing certain names and words!

The original lecture was much longer and included some material on Mohism, which I will be recording for the student - but might also upload here, if it seems of interest on reflection (and if any listeners request to hear it).

The Dream of the Butterfly is a famous story (almost an anecdote, it's so short) told by Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu in the book named after him. The philosopher dreams that he is a butterfly, which leads to musing about the nature of reality. For something so short, it has a lot of philosophical and metaphysical implications - some of which are explored in this podcast. Others will have found far more depth within the Dream than is presented here.


Satyr tails

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This is a short story of the beautiful satyr Ampelos, his romance with Dionysus and how the Lord of
Partying eventually acquired governance of the grapevine and all the wonderful things that can be done with it. There are numerous stories in Greece mythology in which various people undergo botanical metamorphosis. There is doubtless some profound mystical significance to such stories, but as I am about to fall asleep at any minute the contemplation of the meaning will have to wait till some other time.

On a less taxing note, I'm contemplating reincarnating as a goat-footed son of Pan when the time comes - I can live in a book-lined cave and eat buttered crumpets, play the pipes, and generally avoid the appearance of small and annoyingly middle-class children from wardrobes. In the meantime I shall be honouring the spirit of Ampelos with a glass or two of Mavrodaphne of Patras which may well have been blessed by the satyrs of the Peloponnese.


Wine or Beer?

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A lovely early spring day partially spent having lunch with Mike (who brews wines and meads - check out King of Cups, highly recommended) in a lovely Greek cafe (also highly recommended) in Bury St Edmunds have combined to inspire the recording of this somewhat gruesome account of what happens when Olympians get narked.

Anyway, advert breaks aside, this is a retelling of the myth of king Lycurgus of Thrace, who caused great offence to the god Dionysus (never a wise thing to do). There are multiple versions of this tale with writers such as Aeschylus. Servius, and Hyginus each giving their own spin on the details. This version is my mash-up with elements selected (with more of an eye to cheesy plot devices than any spiritual guidance from the Lord of the Vines) from different renditions to illustrate what may have started out as a possible dispute between brewers and vintners. My spin has a touch of the Hammer Horrors about it, which can be blamed on a misspent youth.



Topple my Enemies

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"Stories are how I topple my enemies" says the giant in 'A Monster Calls' (no need to ask what I am watching as half-term begins). It is not simply walking trees that weave dangerous tales that can shatter empires and plummet monarchs from their thrones. Newspaper magnates regularly produce all manner of confections, sometimes to bolster the empires of their chosen puppets and as often to eradicate those rivals, actual or potential, to their ambitions. Missionaries create confabulations to oust the resident Gods before sowing the tales of their own. Spurned lovers seek to destroy the characters of their rivals, either to recapture their lost paramours or simply for revenge. The disenfranchised recast the people they believe (rightly and sometimes wrongly) oppress them, hurled into a weak light, robbed of their power to dominate. Martyrs in search of a cross will find themselves a hammer-wielding villain, even if they have to embroider them out of whole cloth. Someti…

The Power of Death

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At last month's philosophy club we discussed some of the ideas of Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe (pictured left),  particularly with respect to necropower and necropolitics. These are ideas which are, I think, worth reflecting on and which may also be of interest to some of my students on the Ethics degree (the sociology students may also get some mileage out of it for essays and assignments). I'm uploading it here, as well as on the student site, because I thought it might inspire ideas and discussions amongst the half dozen people who read this blog. This waffle reflects more on descriptions and implications of his ideas rather than recommendations of how to improve  the kinds of social problems he outlines.

Mbembe's ideas are built upon earlier philosophising from the French thinker
Michel Foucault (cunningly disguised as Uncle Fester, pictured right) who proposed ideas about biopower and biopolitics, the ways in which governments and those in authority seek t…

Pigsy!

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To mark Chinese New Year (of the Pig) here is the story of how the Marshal Canopy (the translated name of Tiānpéng Yuánshuài) was cast out of the Celestial Realms to become Zhu Bajie - Pigsy as he is usually called in English translations of the renowned Chinese Buddhist novel Journey to the West. He is a comical figure whose gluttony and lustiness may seem at odds with Buddhist ideals, but the common interpretation is that he reflects that even the coarsest soul can eventually refine itself and attain to enlightenment - perhaps especially so if aided through friendship and a noble cause.
My pronunciations will probably make Chinese people wince, so apologies for that. I'm still getting my head round Pinyin, much less the confusion of regional dialects! Hopefully I will find the brain space to record some more snippets from the adventures of the ever-hungry Zhu further on in 2019. If any listeners are Chinese and can recommend a reliable pronunciation guide for names (book, website…

Goblin Market

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Not having recorded anything for a while (too busy marking, second marking, report writing, lecture prepping, and all the other end-of-term/beginning-of-new-term stuff that educators have to do), I decided to save what little creativity I have by reading someone else's far greater creative works ~ Christina Rossetti's long old poem "Goblin Market". It's a beautifully sensuous, allegorical work which probably set Freudians into a spin.

The book it is in is a wonderfully illustrated 1920s collection of children's poetry, all of which is about fairies, elves, goblins and the like - a Yule/birthday gift from a friend. I shall probably record some shorter poem from it at some point in the future. The picture inset is from the book. It is by an artist I've not previously heard of called Warwick Goble - who may well be famous, but I'm not familiar with many children's illustrators. I looked him up and he seems to have been really quite prolific.