Saturday, 17 December 2011

Blogging the Odyssey - Book 10

Here is the Sparknotes summary:

Shari'ah law in the UK

The use of traditional Islamic religious law, or Shari'ah, in the UK has been advocated by various Muslim groups, ranging from the radical fringe to the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain.  In 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Lord Phillips, one of the country's most senior judges, made well-publicised remarks that appeared to express support for the idea.  However, the notion of Shari'ah being enforced in the UK is a controversial one, and figures from across the political spectrum have united in opposing it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Black Labour?

The somewhat Gothic-sounding "Black Labour" appears to be the latest colour-based movement in British politics, following the Red Tories and Blue Labour.

The movement, insofar as it is a movement, has been launched by a document published by the think-tank Policy Network, accompanied by various other initiatives, including an article in the Guardian.  Its authors are Graeme Cooke, a former Labour policy wonk, Adam Lent, who was the TUC's chief economist, Anthony Painter, a journalist, and Hopi Sen, a former Labour spin doctor.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Bloody Sunday and oral history

The Bloody Sunday inquiry was a milestone in the reconciliation of the troubled communities in Northern Ireland.  It also generated an exceptionally valuable store of oral history, in the form of the statements that were taken down from the witnesses and the transcripts of their testimony.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The myth of Winterval

This is a post about one of the more pervasive British media myths of recent times: the notion that left-wing local authorities are replacing Christmas with an ersatz multicultural festival called "Winterval", in anticipation of or in response to pressure from minority communities in general and Muslims in particular.

Media blogger Kevin Arscott has produced a comprehensive analysis of the Winterval myth.  Though somewhat polemical in tone, it is meticulously researched and documented.  It kills the myth of Winterval stone dead, and should make uncomfortable reading for a succession of politicians, church leaders and journalists who have peddled the tale over the years.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Blogging the Odyssey - Book 9

First, the Sparknotes summary:

Reluctantly, Odysseus tells the Phaeacians the sorry tale of his wanderings. From Troy, the winds sweep him and his men to Ismarus, city of the Cicones. The men plunder the land and, carried away by greed, stay until the reinforced ranks of the Cicones turn on them and attack. Odysseus and his crew finally escape, having lost six men per ship. A storm sent by Zeus sweeps them along for nine days before bringing them to the land of the Lotus-eaters, where the natives give some of Odysseus’s men the intoxicating fruit of the lotus. As soon as they eat this fruit, they lose all thoughts of home and long for nothing more than to stay there eating more fruit. Only by dragging his men back to the ship and locking them up can Odysseus get them off the island.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Blogging the Odyssey - Book 8

First, the Sparknotes summary:

The next day, Alcinous calls an assembly of his Phaeacian counselors. Athena, back from Athens, ensures attendance by spreading word that the topic of discussion will be the godlike visitor who recently appeared on the island. At the assembly, Alcinous proposes providing a ship for his visitor so that the man can return to his homeland. The measure is approved, and Alcinous invites the counselors to his palace for a feast and celebration of games in honor of his guest. There, a blind bard named Demodocus sings of the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles at Troy. Everyone listens with pleasure except Odysseus, who weeps at the painful memories that the story recalls. The king notices Odysseus’s grief and ends the feast so that the games can begin.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Instructions of Šuruppak

This is as good a candidate as any for the oldest piece of literature in the world.  Composed in ancient Sumer, the world's oldest civilisation, it has been dated to the early to mid-3rd millennium BC.