Captain Leviticus slammed the splintered remains of the wheel to port. The Ark’s masts groaned under the strain. “We’re getting close”, he screamed over the diabolical winds. “Fifth circle,” yelled the navigator, gazing intently into the orrery. Down below all the supplies rattled in the lockers; oil lamps flickered; a sulphur-laden mist seeped into every nook and cranny, making grown men weep tears of fear. “This is Mephistopheles’ domain”, yelled the navigator again. His shouts ebbed away into the crow-black night.
On deck, the captain ordered the cannons to be readied. He knew not when the encounter would arrive. The Watchman and Protector dwelt in the fifth realm. “Load the silver shot — look sharp,” ordered Leviticus, squaring himself up as he did so. …
“What’s past is prologue”, William Shakespeare said. So let us look into the past at the great stories that have captivated generations. Stories of courtship and love, loss and betrayal, palaces and princesses, suspension of disbelief. The thing is nothing really ever changes — stories of great emotion will always win our hearts. And the greatest stories of all are found in opera. Bring together stories of great emotion, music, art, light. Opera tantalises all the senses and transports us to a magical world — if only for a couple of hours. This is a story about our Hero and his search for True Love, facing the forces of darkness. …
A short story inspired by the stream-of-consciousness opening of “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf
I gazed down at a crumb on the oatmeal-coloured carpet, picking it at and brushing it under the sofa. The table and chairs above me were grey. A heavily made-up women leered down from the television. It was cold; maybe it was a wet December day? On the wall was my mother’s home-made advent calendar of matchboxes and ribbons. An old, black music player — dust gathering in between the buttons — blared out Boney M Christmas carols from a tape. I was fascinated by their photograph on the box. There was something exotic, foreign, exciting about their hair and clothes. Cheap sausages cracked and sniggered from the grill pan, wafting meat and fat into the living room. Rewind. I looked down at the tape case, the dust between the buttons of the music player. It all seemed so sickeningly normal. What once was reassuring — the small, average house, ten miles to Taunton, two up, two down, brown window frames, cracking paint, the plum tree in the garden — now disgusted me; the sheer revolting boredom of it all. Rewind. I remembered the doors the best. They were cheap and lightweight with flimsy aluminium handles. The screws never lined up properly. Stop. Play. Was it December? Yes, it must have been. 1992? 1993? Those years hardly mattered. Rewind. Part of her was left in with that tape case, with Boney M and Slade. I look at her face and the lines map the journey of those years. She’s still the same. But different. Less sure of things, more clumsy; slower; timid. Stop. Play. “Adam! Sit down for your tea!” The little metal table with its pale blue legs and teddy-bear chair stood in the middle of the living room. Sausages and peas on the plate. Boney M jingled through their next song from the tape. Rewind. She’s sat beside me, fiddling with her phone, struggling to send a text, little notes of recycled paper on the table to remind her of appointments. The house: Taunton, three up, three down, oatmeal-coloured carpet. Sometimes I can’t look at her because the tape keeps turning forwards and forwards and I can’t hit…Stop. …
A coat of downy fur surrounds her
tightly wrapped against biting jaws.
Day by day the sun rouses
winter land from its slumber.
Awake! Saffron dust blows in February’s storms.
Contorted limbs turn their bare bark
skin to face the warming March air.
A woodpecker knocks on the silvery door
of her trunk.
Pearl necklaces tumble
in glittering raiment down
from bough to bough.
The bud fills with the promise of spring:
a headrush of sap bursting
electric green leaves from their winter prison.
Hazel nods each leaf in approval
of warm rain washing
her new April outfit.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…
As You Like It, William Shakespeare
As a professional actor and playwright, Shakespeare lived by his words both on and off the stage. But modern day professionals can learn a lot from his words, too.
Effective communication would be increased if individuals in business took Shakespeare’s words to heart. If you view your life as a performance then everything from the daily commute to a meeting with your boss acquires a deeper meaning. You become more aware of your surroundings and more conscious of every sentence you speak. Sometimes we are the only member of the audience, and sometimes the auditorium is packed. What is important is that in everything you do, to do it clearly and without confusion. …
There is a problem with Homer’s Odyssey. Descriptions of Ithaca, Odysseus’ mythical home, bear no resemblence to the modern Greek island of Ithaca.
While at university, I attended a lecture given by the geologist Professor John Underhill. His theory was that the Ithaca in the books was actually the Paliki peninsula on modern-day Kefalonia; that volcanic activity had created a bridge between Kefalonia and what was once a separate island.
With all the zeal and arrogance of 21-year-old graduates, believing that the world was at our feet, we chartered a yacht and went off to investigate.
We never found the real Ithaca. But in the journey we learned a lot about about relationships, about leadership, about embracing the challenge of being human. We have all grown up in five short years. This is our log from 2009 — un-edited as a lesson to our future selves. …
Academia as we know it, at least in the humanities, is dead. The traditional model of universities pumping out research in order to establish credibility and students paying top dollar to study under diffident professors has rightfully had its day. The debate isn’t what, it’s why.
Much has been made in the industry press (stop kidding yourself, PhD: it is an industry) about the changing face of higher education. One provocateur even suggested that academia resembles a drug gang. It’s obvious that the staffing model is broken; greed has made the business unstable and unsustainable. …
Enter stage right the glamorous young hero, about to save the day. MOOCs (massive online open courses) are about to explode as education’s hottest ticket. Brands like edX and Coursera are about to go viral.
Peel back the shine and the reality is different. MOOCs have been eagerly championed by the Silicon Valley set because it is the same Capitalism 2.0 that has built giant, job-destroying, capital-munching companies that drives the founders of MOOCs. As Jaron Lanier has alluded in his book Who owns the future? those that will succeed are those with the biggest server. In other words, the internet isn’t opening up educational opportunities for the many, but entrenching the dominance of the few. MOOC providers use the entrepreneur jargon of “scaling”. Which is apt. …